Meet the New GOP, Same as the Old GOP
For the better part of two years, the Republican base made it clear it prefers a certain kind of far-right candidate. These activists demanded "insurgents" and "outsiders," who have no use for the entrenched Washington establishment and its corrupt power structure. After the midterms, we'd see a new way of doing business.
Hard-charging Republicans who rallied voters last year with cries of "Stop the spending, ban the earmarks" are quietly offering a more familiar Washington refrain now that they're in Congress: not in my backyard.
The massive, $553 billion bill providing a budget for the Pentagon boasts millions of dollars that President Barack Obama didn't request for weapons programs, installations and other projects in districts from Illinois to Mississippi represented by House GOP freshmen. The additions look suspiciously like the pet projects that Republicans prohibited when they took over the House and that the new class of lawmakers, many with tea party backing, swore off in a promise to change Washington's spending habits.
Heated campaign talk of reining in spending and barring earmarks often cools once candidates get to Congress and face the needs and demands of their districts, especially in times of wobbly economic recovery and a widespread shortage of jobs.
Wait, you mean government spending can create jobs and improve local economies? I could of sworn I heard Republicans argue the opposite.
The larger point, of course, is that the new way of doing business on Capitol Hill looks an awful lot the old way. GOP officials continue to insist there are no earmarks in the bill, but the AP's analysis found all kinds of Republican lawmakers boasting about quietly inserting specific spending provisions in the defense spending bill -- provisions the Pentagon didn't ask for, and which received little or no debate at the committee level -- which will bring resources to their district.
That many of these same Republican lawmakers won in 2010 by railing against earmarks is apparently a pesky detail we're not supposed to notice.
But it's the bigger picture that looks even more damning. Those "insurgents" and "outsiders," who were eager to overthrow the system, are getting settled in and finding that the system isn't so bad after all. Their desire to "shake up" Washington, for example, doesn't stop freshman Republicans from raising most of their re-election money from corporate political action committees. What's more, we're also seeing several Tea Party Republicans hiring corporate lobbyists to help oversee their congressional offices, and are going back to letting lobbyists write legislation.
There was also a Politico report last month that noted many of the far-right freshmen are already using their offices to do things "the Washington way." That means "using a legislative process they once railed against as a way to assist donors, protect favored industries or settle scores with their political enemies." These efforts include steps that look an awful lot like "payback for benefactors," with nine GOP freshmen offering "targeted proposals that would assist major donors or supportive industries or bills that would hurt labor adversaries."
I'm curious, is this what the anti-establishment Tea Party crowd had in mind last year?