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Stuck on budget bill, Republicans snap photos of sidelines

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Stuck on budget bill, Republicans snap photos of sidelines

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WASHINGTON – The biggest legislative negotiation in years is taking place on Capitol Hill and the White House, with key lockdowns commuting, lawmakers locked in intense private meetings and the media providing minute-by-minute coverage of the developments.

And Republicans in the House and Senate have absolutely nothing to do with any of this.

Sidelined by budget rules that give majority Democrats full control over the social safety net bill they are trying to push through, Republicans are strictly spectators as they revel in disputes Internal Democrats are sniping emerging legislation and looking to make the most of the situation for next year’s crucial midterm elections.

Leading Republican lawmakers who are typically assailed by reporters walk unhindered through the halls of Capitol Hill while Democrats are hunted down for any snippet of the current state of affairs. The lack of attention has not gone unnoticed.

“We’re a little surprised you’re still here today, because we know all the news is on the other side,” Sen. Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and Minority Leader, told reporters who showed up for his weekly. press conference Tuesday.

This is not an unprecedented situation. As recently as 2017, Republicans went it alone on their Trump-era tax cuts by using the budget reconciliation process, which shields legislation from filibuster, knowing Democrats would not support the corporate tax breaks that the GOP eagerly granted. In 2009 and 2010, Democrats had a sufficiently substantial majority in the Senate and House to be able to enact the Affordable Care Act on their own against universal Republican resistance.

Realizing that Republicans would never support the kinds of social and climate programs they are trying to enact in backstop legislation, Democrats are the ones using reconciliation this time around. With the shoe on the other foot and with very slim Democratic majorities, the unilateral legislation has made Republicans – who make up exactly half of the Senate and almost half of the House – virtually irrelevant as Congress debates it. ‘potentially important legislation that is expected to be expensive. at least $ 1.5 trillion.

“It’s really weird,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, one of the few Republicans who occasionally join Democrats on important laws and who have helped craft the bipartisan infrastructure bill in the meantime. a final vote in the House. “As someone open to ideas from both sides and working on a lot of different initiatives with Democrats, not really being involved or engaged in any aspect is really strange.”

But there doesn’t seem to be any fear of missing out among Republicans, given their hostility to the new domestic policy package, which – even in its scaled-down form as Democrats are scaling back to appease crucial centrists – would lead to a level of backlash. social spending is anathema to GOP lawmakers.

“They just have to satisfy their political base that it is pulled so far to the left,” Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn said of Democrats. “Obviously we don’t like being left out of policy making, but that’s the choice they made. “

In the meantime, Mr Cornyn, like many of his fellow Republicans, has been enthralled by the political and political intrigue and the many twists and turns as Congressional Democrats and President Biden struggle to reach a deal.

“It’s more fascinating than frustrating,” he said.

Their non-participation has freed Republicans to set off a political barrage against Democratic legislation as various ideas rise and fall, providing multiple targets for the GOP

Now, with Democrats promising a deal is at hand, Republicans are increasingly speaking out and whatever avenues are available to them to attack the emerging plan.

In the Senate, Republicans active on energy and environmental issues blocked off a good deal of speaking time on Wednesday to tear up what they called the “fiscal and reckless spending frenzy” pursued by Democrats. In the House, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the top Republican, hosted a series of digitally broadcast roundtables featuring lawmakers hammering out elements of the Democratic plan. Republicans are currently focusing on the measure’s potential impact on home heating costs and gas prices, topics they believe can be political winners.

Mr. McConnell particularly cut the Democratic plan in his daily remarks. On Tuesday, he described the expanded child tax credit that Democrats see as one of its most popular components as “new monthly welfare deposits.” On Wednesday, he said the climate change measures in the legislation amounted to “pure fulfillment of the socialist wish” and ridiculed Democrats for trying to rush the provisions he said would increase the costs of the campaign. energy so Mr Biden can celebrate them at a climate summit in Scotland on Sunday.

“Pain for the American people,” said Mr. McConnell, “so that President Biden could receive the cheers of the crowds in Glasgow. “

He and other Republicans have also taken on the proposed tax on unrealized gains on assets held by billionaires.

“Never before has this been attempted, tried, or implemented in the history of the United States, where you would actually have an income tax before people actually receive that income,” Senator John said. Thune of South Dakota, the second Senate Republican.

Democrats have praised the Republican strong defense of billionaires, noting that few politicians have higher polls than demanding superriches able to evade heavy taxes to pay more.

“They’re trotting all kinds of excuses like they haven’t been tested,” said Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon and champion of the new tax as chairman of the finance committee. “What I am waiting to see is if there will be an elected Republican who will stand up and say that it is okay for multibillionaires to pay little or no tax for years.”

Like the rest of the country, Republicans in Congress are waiting and watching to see if Democrats can pull off their very difficult legislative feat. They hope not.

“We don’t really encourage them from the sideline,” said Cornyn.

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