Monday, July 31


Republican cynicism at work.

Once again, Congressional Rethuglicans prove that they think the mental age of their constituencies is about, well, six. They show contempt for voters by imagining that it won't be obvious to them that the linking of another huge windfall for the uber-wealthy with a long-awaited minimum wage hike (to be phased in over three years) isn't simply a ploy to pass estate tax legislation that has failed repeatedly and to frame Democrats who oppose it as voting against one of our pet causes, an increase in the minimum wage for our working poor. Of course, if it fails, as it should, they think they will have sent two key messages to the electorate: to their wealthy patrons, "We tried everything we could to kill the estate tax," and to others, they think they will have framed the Democrats.

This is an attempt at extortion. There is no way to justify providing yet another enormous tax shelter to the nation’s wealthiest heirs in the face of huge budget deficits, growing income inequality and looming government obligations for Social Security and Medicare.

As for the House’s pension bill, it is not the overhaul that Congress has long been promising. The promised bill would have meshed House and Senate versions of pension reform into a single bill that would have almost certainly passed each chamber. But the conference was fatally derailed last Thursday when House Republican negotiators, including the majority leader, John Boehner, refused to attend a meeting called by Senate Republicans to settle a few remaining differences. Mr. Boehner and his followers avoided having to vote — and lose — on items that other negotiators wanted in the final bill.

Once they had scuttled the talks, House leaders acted unilaterally, presenting a new pension bill on Friday. They said the new bill contained the provisions that had previously been agreed upon. But that remains to be seen, since the 900-page tome was passed within hours. It will be up to the senators to vet the bill. If they see fit to amend it, the negotiations will have to start all over again.

The Senate has one week before its summer recess. As the senators struggle to produce decent legislation from the House’s sham bills, Americans will see the truth: their representatives in the House went on vacation without doing their job.

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