Politico reports

Fresh off his stint as a war correspondent in Gaza, Joe the Plumber is now doing political strategy with Republicans.

When GOP congressional aides gather Tuesday morning for a meeting of the Conservative Working Group, Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher – more commonly known as Joe the Plumber — will be their featured guest. This group is an organization of conservative Capitol Hill staffers who meet regularly to chart GOP strategy for the week.

When will the House Republicans have officially jumped the shark?


The Capitol and The Capital

I try not to write too much on pure politics, but the answer to Josh Marshall’s question seems pretty straightforward to me.

Over almost two years, I’ve learned not to underestimate Barack Obama or assume reflexively that if he’s not following my idea of the best way to proceed that he hasn’t thought up a much better one I hadn’t considered. But it does look to me like he’s ceding the initiative [on a stimulus bill] to Congress, which is odd since he’s immensely popular and Congress is wildly unpopular.

First, a stimulus bill is unquestionably the most pressing of several pressing expediencies, and as such, can be expected to be put together in Congress within a reasonable time frame. Second, he’s not President yet, and allowing Congress to begin gives the bill a head start. Third, it’s unlikely a bill proposed by Obama was going to come through through Congress unsullied anyway, so what then is the harm of letting it get diluted first? Lastly, and building on the first three reasons, if Obama can pass a stimulus bill without spending any of his own political capital, it leaves more room to fight on distinctly less bipartisan issues like climate change or EFCA.

It’s the Interests

It’s a pretty common gripe for those dissatisfied with the American politics to lament the “two party system”, the assumption being that if there were more political parties, there’d be less partisan gridlock. I’m not inclined to believe this.

For example, look at the upcoming battle between Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) for committee chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Dingell, from Michigan, has been a friend of the auto industry, and is thus disinclined to push sweeping climate change legislation inimical to the interests of his constituencies. Waxman, on the other hand, is not bound by the constraints of auto manufactures and would be inclined to push sweeping climate change legislation. In any event, this dispute would still exist regardless of whether or not Waxman and Dingell were both Democrats because Dingell would still be representing the interests of auto manufacturers and Democrats would still need Dingell’s vote from time to time.

On the Senate side, consider Joe Lieberman. Joe Lieberman votes with Democrats most of the time, he just happens to be a foreign policy lunatic. In a multipolar political system where Lieberman could run the Domestic Liberal/Foreign Policy Lunatic Party (DLFPLP), Lieberman’s vote would still be valuable to Democrats, and Democrats would still, at least to a certain extent, need to cater to Lieberman’s interests.

There are endless examples of this, and indeed, in multi-party political systems, legislatures can often be held captive by the extreme parties. Simply put, it doesn’t really matter how narrowly you choose to dice political interests. So long as interests are represented and majority coalitions need to be formed, there will always be a need for compromise.

New GOP Strategy: Gold Stars

Ryan Grim at Politico has a fairly hilarious report detailing how House Republicans receive awards called “Shimmys” for bloviating on the floor. Named for Rep. John M. Shimkus (R-Ill.), the award has taken the form of a can of oil (for those speaking on energy issues), as well as busts of Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. Georgia Reps. Phil Gingrey, who recently won a can of oil reward, got his by going all biblical and shit.

“I think Mr. Westmoreland earlier used the expression: ‘Let my oil and gas flow.’ It made me think a little bit biblical. I don’t want to get too biblical, because I will get out of my lane in a hurry, Mr. Speaker. But it’s like Moses said to Pharaoh: ‘Let my people go.’ [Pharaoh] wouldn’t do it; he wouldn’t do it. He promised time after time. [Pharaoh] kept reneging, even though his own people were suffering tremendously. I don’t know what he was betting on back there many thousands of years ago, but he was wrong. He finally did let the people go.”

Yes, bans on off-shore drilling are really quite a bit like Moses asking for his people to be freed of chattel slavery. Anyway, this practice of rewarding excellent oratory and analysis hasn’t drawn support from all (anonymous) members of the GOP.

“The idea that people who are in the House of Representatives need to give each other awards for talking bull——, and that’s really what it is,” one Republican member said before he trailed off in disbelief. “What kind of a party is that?”

It’s a good point, because I didn’t think the GOP gave out awards for continual dishonesty, just high ranking positions like Attorney General. And, as the article points out, it might be hard to get an award for floor speech that runs counter to short sighted GOP talking points.

A notable omission from last week’s winners: Rep. Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland, who has taken to the floor repeatedly to argue that the supply of oil is limited and that increasing demand will cause a catastrophic economic shock.

Give the whole thing a read.