We are seeing a familiar scenario play out now that the Democrats made sweeping gains in the November elections and switched 40 seats to gain control of the House of Republicans. They now have a 235-199 majority with the disputed seat in North Carolina still to be determined. As a result, they can set the legislative agenda and now have sweeping powers to investigate all the abuses of the Trump administration.
So what is the scenario? It is the emergence of people who suddenly decide that legislators of both parties need to forget the acrimony of the past and come together and compromise for the good of the nation. They have conveniently forgotten that all these years the Republicans simply tried to ram through their own extreme oligarchic agenda without taking into account other voices. The goal of this strategy is clear: to get the so-called ‘moderate’ Democrats to ally with Republicans to thwart the agenda of the new breed of progressive legislators swept in on the wave of reform.
Who are the people calling for moderation? Some of them are Republicans such as House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, a pusillanimous hack, who has written a letter to the new Democrats.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is encouraging incoming Democratic lawmakers to embrace bipartisanship, arguing such an approach benefits constituents more than a “partisan food fight” and investigations.
“If the next Congress devolves into a partisan food fight of accusations and investigations, it will come at the expense of real Americans. A minority of loud voices seem to prefer that outcome, but I think our country is too great for a vision so small.”
Yeah, right. Where were you when Paul Ryan was trying to fulfill his Ayn Rand fantasies of starving the poor and committee chairs like Devin Nunes, Trey Gowdy, and Darrell Issa spent years dragging out absurd partisan investigations into Benghazi and the like while ignoring real issues? McCarthy’s call to forget the past reminded me of the ‘Let’s not bicker and argue about who killed who’ scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
But McCarthy’s ploy is transparent. More subtle are those nominal Democrats who have long been working both sides of the aisle for their own benefit and the benefit of the wealthy. They tend to adopt the guise of being pragmatic realists and not ideologues and group themselves under neutral-sounding labels. The current ones are ‘Ne Labels’ and ‘Problem Solvers Caucus’.
All I needed to know about the ‘No Labels’ group to realize that it was a scam was to learn that its leaders are the odious Joe Lieberman and that other snake-oil salesman Jon Huntsman. But Clio Change goes deeper and gives us the background on the group and its subsidiary ‘Problem Solvers Caucus’ and the big finance industry groups funding them
SINCE 2010, A group called No Labels has embodied a particular approach to politics and policy in Washington, D.C.; it’s one that insists the real problems are partisanship, divisiveness, and incivility, and that if only sensible centrists from both parties could be brought together under the right conditions, the halcyon days of the past will return.
Yet curiously, the sensible solutions so often proposed by No Labels and its ilk have an uncanny likelihood of benefiting one particular element of our nation’s political economy: the superrich, or more precisely, the finance industry.
A new report on Monday from the Daily Beast adds a sweeping array of details to what many long knew or suspected about this movement, which allegedly wants to remain above the fray: It’s funded by the barons of hedge funds and private equity.
Far from remaining aloof from politics, No Labels has consistently been swooping down into the fray in recent years on behalf of Republicans and conservative Democrats. The House Problem Solvers Caucus, which was produced and is funded by No Labels, made headlines recently in its quest to hold up Nancy Pelosi’s speakership bid unless she supported their “Break the Gridlock” rule changes.
But the full suite of reforms would have just ended up benefiting the GOP; after all, it’s not like the Problem Solvers Caucus pressed for these rules when Paul Ryan was up for the position. Selectively tying the hands of Democratic leadership in the wake of a Democratic rout in the midterms isn’t balanced governance, it simply helps the right.
So what does this so-called ”centrist’ (but actually right wing) group, that is backed by media pundits like David Brooks and think tanks want?
In exchange for rather uncontroversial and moderate policies — like expanding the earned income tax credit for childless workers; making the child and dependent care tax credit refundable; and more funding for career education and training — the working group recommends adding work requirements to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and promoting marriage. They have also put forward proposals to “reform unemployment and disability insurance to promote work,” including forcing unemployment insurance beneficiaries to pick up their checks at unemployment offices and cracking down on disability insurance claimants.
Many of these policies are debunked right-wing ideas that have continuously been given the veneer of credibility from the “centrist” think tank establishment.
One of the strategies of this group is to urge the Democrats to adopt ‘Pay-Go’ policies that require all policies to be deficit-neutral, by requiring new programs to be paid for by cuts elsewhere or by raising taxes, actually only the former. This rule was nowhere to be seen when Republicans were in charge and enabled them to pass massive tax cuts for the wealthy and increase funding for the military but was invoked to kill ideas that would benefit ordinary people. The goal is to use this to stifle any attempts to have programs that benefit everyone else, like on health care or earned income benefits or education and other public services.
Nancy Pelosi has, over the objections of some of the new young Turks in the party, adopted the Pay-Go package. The aggressive demands by people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex and the massive publicity she has been able to achieve for progressive issues has been leveraged by her progressive colleagues to win some battles in the arcane legislative processes. For example, in getting the new members on board with this rule, Pelosi had to agree to some significant concessions proposed by Mark Pocan and Pramila Jayapal, as Ryan Grim and Aida Chavez report.
Indeed, Pocan and Jayapal’s support for the package came after they negotiated with Pelosi and won significant concessions, including seats on powerful committees, the repeal of a rule that required a supermajority for tax increases, hardened rules around sexual harassment, and strengthened language around the War Powers Resolution, which will make it easier for the House to vote to put an end to U.S support for the war in Yemen.
Pelosi has guaranteed that the House will hold a hearing on “Medicare for All,” Jayapal said, noting that critics who argued that pay-go will get in the way of that are wrong. Pelosi and Rep. Jim McGovern, chair of the House Rules Committee, have both said that pay-go can be waived in such circumstances. “The waiving we’ve been working on for a while with McGovern, but honestly we were trying to keep it kind of quiet, because not all of the conservative members know this, and now they’re saying, ‘Oh, you’re going to waive the rules? What do you mean?’” Jayapal said. “So sometimes I’m just like, come on people, let’s be strategic about some of this in terms of what we take on.”
One Democratic member of Congress Mark Pocan has said that he was ‘duped’ by the No Labels shtick and was suckered into it when he was first elected in 2012. He warns his colleagues to steer clear of that group.
The moment we were sworn in [in 2012], we were given lapel pins to brand us as the Problem Solvers Caucus, which was sponsored by No Labels.
However, things quickly went south. I attended a few meetings at the outset, but the rhetoric wasn’t about finding ways to get things done and breaking gridlock ― rather it was more about finding more centrist, more corporate and more special interest-focused things to do.
Fast-forward to the past few weeks, when No Labels’ Problem Solvers Caucus tried to threaten Nancy Pelosi’s speakership. While No Labels was originally advertised as a group committed to getting things done and breaking gridlock, it now seems more focused on stopping Pelosi and providing a fast track for special interests and lobbyists.
Look, I get it. No Labels is slick, and I got duped. But no other current or newly elected member of Congress should fall for its shtick. No Labels is a centrist, corporate organization working against Democrats with dark, anonymous money to advance power for special interests. Period.
Pocan has learned and got it right. I think that the ‘No Labels’ scam will have much less traction this time, despite its media support.