RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Grayson writes: "We're going to need some kind of patch to get through this. But I hope that the Powers That Be learn from this mistake."

President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner. (photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner. (photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Legislation Constipation

By Alan Grayson, Reader Supported News

27 December 12


ere are what I modestly and humbly refer to as "Grayson's Laws of Legislating":

1) Vote for what you're in favor of.

2) Vote for what you can live with, if you must do that to get what you need.

What we've been seeing in the House of Representatives lately has been a series of massive and pervasive violations of Grayson's Laws of Legislating. Instead of "I'll vote for X because it's right," or "You don't like X and I don't like Y, but I'll vote for X and Y if you vote for X and Y," it's "If I don't get Z, I ain't votin' on nothin'." And that's the problem.

Let's take one very pertinent example: the impeding tax increases on taxpayers making less than $250,000 a year. I don't know a single member of the House, Democratic or Republican, who has said on the record that he or she is in favor of raising taxes, starting next Tuesday, on taxpayers making less than $250,000 a year. Let's suppose that you crafted a one-sentence bill reading as follows: "There shall be no income tax rate increases for the 2013 tax year on taxpayers making less than $250,000 a year." Let's suppose that you then administered sodium pentothal (truth serum) to every member of Congress. Let's suppose that you then had a vote on that bill. Obviously, it would pass the House by 435 to 0, or something close to that. Followed immediately by unanimous passage by the Senate, and the president's signature.

(Here is another entertaining thought experiment: Just for fun, administer sodium pentothol to Rush Limbaugh, too. You'd have three hours of total silence on the airwaves.)

So anyway, in the case of "no income tax rate increases for everyone but the rich," Grayson's First Law of Legislating is sufficient. Everyone's in favor of it, so everyone votes for it. Done.

It turns out that many, many components of the so-called "fiscal cliff" could be resolved quite simply by applying Grayson's First Law of Legislating. I think it's fair to say that a majority of the members of Congress, right or wrong, are in favor of raising the debt ceiling before the government's borrowing capacity is exhausted. I think it's fair to say that a majority of the members of Congress, right or wrong, are against a 27 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors, starting next week. I think it's fair to say that a majority of the members of Congress, right or wrong, are against an 8 percent cut in air traffic control on Jan. 1. If you had single votes, up or down, on 90 percent of the components of the "fiscal cliff," the outcome would not be in doubt.

And as for the remaining 10 percent, then you've got Grayson's Second Law of Legislating to apply. I really, really don't want to see unemployment insurance benefits cut off for millions of unemployed workers, seven days after Christmas. Maybe Rep. Skullinrear (R-Tea Party) doesn't care. But Rep. Skullinrear really, really doesn't want to see a 12 percent cut in defense spending from sequestration next week. I may not share Rep. Skullinrear's morbid preoccupation with blowing stuff up. Nevertheless, his morbid preoccupation with blowing stuff up, together with my odd aversion to seeing families living in cars, gives the two of us something to talk about.

Mick Jagger, that eminent political scholar, had it all figured out more than 40 years ago. You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find -- you just might find -- that you get what you need.

But in the House, that's not what we're seeing at all. Instead, we see what might be called the "Young John McCain" Law of Legislating. Senator John McCain has written that when he was a toddler, he sometimes got so furious that he held his breath until he passed out.

Now John Boehner is doing it. Boehner is holding his breath until America passes out.

It's been 10 months since the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board coined the term "fiscal cliff" when he called attention to the "massive fiscal cliff of large spending cuts and tax increases" that will go into effect less than a week from now. Ten months. But in all of that time, there has been nothing in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives even remotely resembling a line-by-line vote on whether each one of those spending cuts and tax increases, individually, is good or bad. Just John Boehner holding his breath until the Democrats "agree" to extending tax breaks for the rich, and cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits.

It's the worst case of legislation constipation that I've ever seen. But that's what happens -- what ought to happen -- when the folks in charge say over and over again, "I'm in favor of X, but I won't vote for X, or even allow a vote for X, unless I get Y."

We're going to need some kind of patch to get through this. But I hope that the Powers That Be learn from this mistake. Slice it all into little pieces, and then vote each piece up or down. It works. And it's a lot more practical than hoping that John Boehner, or Barack Obama, pulls a rabbit out of his hat.


Alan Grayson

Oh, you can't always get what you want.
Oh, you can't always get what you want.
Oh, you can't always get what you want.
But if you try sometimes,
You just might find, you just might find,
You get what you need.

- The Rolling Stones, "You Can't Always Get What You Want" (1969).

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+18 # BradFromSalem 2012-12-27 15:12
And that is why Barack Obama's obsession with the Grand Bargain is so damn foolish. Thank you Rep (redux) Grayson for speaking plainly and succinctly.
+8 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2012-12-28 01:27
For those of us "not in the know" about the Grand Bargain-what is your vision of the "Grand Bargain?" The grand vision of the Republicans is to give you a Grand Bargain, very short end of the stick, turn America into a Third World Country
+5 # BradFromSalem 2012-12-28 09:28

The Grand Bargain is the idea put forward by President Obama in the 2010/2011 "cliff hanger" budget battle. At that time, he put various concessions to the Republican economic vision on the table, mixed in a handful of Democratic economic ideas and then stretched the whole concoction out over 10 years. This made some sense politically as the Dems just had their lunch handed to them by the Republicans in the 2010 elections.

At the time, it was a way to get some leverage against the Republican's political advantage. A Grand Bargain does that. It enables the weaker side to get more than if they went against each other on an issue by issue vote.

I think it is obvious that the Republicans are in no position to bargain with anyone until they determine as a group that they can define, in legislation, what their vision is and be able to round up a majority of the party around that legislation. Laws are usually passed by a majority of one party and a minority of the other. What is happening for the past 4 years is an aberration, not unprecedented, but highly unusual and possibly unique in the scope of the laws held hostage.
+1 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2012-12-28 10:40
+11 # Dave45 2012-12-27 23:23
From the standpoint of the current crop of America's political "minds," Grayson's proposal has one fatal flaw--it's reasonable.
+8 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2012-12-28 01:08
This is the first time in my life that I'm ashamed to be an American. I'm 72 "tears" old. Two unfunded wars which created Corporate war millionaires. Again i'll refer to George Bernard Shaw: "The longer I live the more I'm convinced that this planet is an asylun for the insane."
+8 # angelfish 2012-12-28 01:40
Sadly, Rep. Grayson, It's gonna take a High Colonic, that is High, Hot and a Hell of a LOT to get THIS bunch moving! They are WORSE than teats on a Boar Hog and they ALL need to be Purged from our Legislative System if we're to get ANY real work done over the next four years! I have hope, but not much else. God Bless you and your like-minded Colleagues whom I know are few and far between in the House who are saddled with the burden of trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear!
+9 # tpmco 2012-12-28 03:13
Yes! I'm ready for another term of common sense. Speak loudly, and offensively, every time you get the chance.
+5 # GDC707 2012-12-28 05:11
Yeah, yeah whatever, Alan. Not one word about Obama's insistence on shoving Social Security cuts back on to the table when doing so will not reduce the deficit one penny.

Both parties are giving off a horrible stench in this deal.
+5 # DerProfessor 2012-12-28 18:43
What we are seeing now in the House of Representatives is the long-dreaded "class warfare." The representatives know whom they represent, and in most cases it is the one percent, the wealthiest Americans. The "fiscal cliff" is nonsense, more like a fiscal ditch which anyone can leap across, but with our corporate masters willing to declare any difficulty a crisis, and our political representatives more than willing to accommodate them, any wrinkle can be declared an insurmountable difficulty. Go ahead and go off the fiscal cliff. What happens? Tax rates go back to what they were before George W. got his hands on the levers of government. Drastic governmental cuts are enacted left and right. The Republicans' bluff is called, and they fold. Then negotiations really begin.
+2 # tishado 2012-12-29 01:37
We need to flood the Congress with a progressive candidate in every district (in the primary and in the general election if none emerges from the primary) to apply massive pressure and organization to give Grayson some reliable allies and to scare some moderates and conservatives to help out, too.

I would volunteer, but I live out of the country and there is no prospect for me coming back in time for 2014. I have run before as a non-partisan, Third-Party, and Democratic candidate. I am sure that there lot of readers out there who are more talented than me or who have friends who are. Even if you are not ready to run for Congress, you can run for local or state office and gain experience and popularity for making principled stands and that will help generate the pressure for progressive policy. The more voices we have in the public sphere voicing the demand for the people-oriented economy the voters want, the harder it is for the regressive elites to push for their austerity. We need to take back the debate.

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.