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Jon Healey

Healey

House Democrats have taken up what may be the most important government-reform effort in decades — HR 1, a package of anti-corruption proposals — and buried it under an avalanche of hot takes about anti-Semitism.

To paraphrase “Hustle & Flow,” it’s hard out here for a majority.

All you liberals who delighted at the many times Republican Speakers John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Paul Ryan, R-Wis., were undermined by uncompromising fringe factions within the House GOP may now see the world through their eyes.

At the time, many a pundit opined that Boehner and Ryan had to coddle tea partiers or their successors in disruption, the House Freedom Caucus, or else lose the gavel. But the problem is more fundamental than that: Those dissident factions had enough votes to scuttle legislation if they sided with Democrats, which they were more than willing to do, even on bills that only a conservative could love.

So the speaker had little choice but to accommodate them on measures that Democrats opposed, which is almost everything the GOP-controlled House moved.

Similarly, current Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, has a sizable faction of younger, more liberal members agitating for quick action on such polarizing proposals as the Green New Deal and single-payer healthcare.

A bill by sophomore Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, to extend Medicare to all Americans quickly garnered 106 Democratic cosponsors (and no Republicans). Try telling that group to sit back down and wait their turn.

What Pelosi can do is let the disciplining function of the legislative process temper the outsize ambitions of new members.

Developing a workable, affordable transition to single payer, if such a thing exists, will take months of hearings and legislative drafting sessions. Ditto for charting a path to a carbon-neutral economy.

If the proponents of such ideas are serious, as some of them clearly are, they’ll be willing to put in the time and effort.

A potentially bigger problem for Pelosi and her party, though, is the way a handful of individual members are seemingly defining the entire House Democratic caucus.

Last week it was Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, whose inability to avoid anti-Semitic land mines in her critiques of U.S. policy toward Israel has given President Trump the opportunity to paint Democrats as the anti-Israel party.

This is mystifying. There have been outliers in Congress for years in both parties, including weirdos such as James Traficant, D-Ohio, and Dana Rohrabacher, R-California, and extremists such as Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota. And while they occasionally embarrassed their colleagues, they were never held up as representative.

Yet Omar somehow gets held up as the face of the Democratic Party?

The House Democratic leadership is partly to blame for this.

Republicans’ criticism of Omar prompted Democrats to take action against her to prove that they were as tough on anti-Semitism as the next elected official, rather than counting on the public to recognize the statements of a single, obscure pol for what they were. That was mistake No. 1.

Mistake No. 2 was refusing to single out Omar for criticism, or even denounce just the anti-Semitism implicit in the tropes she invoked. Instead, being Democrats, the resolution they offered also denounced a laundry list of other ills, for fear of singling out the person who caused the problem in the first place.

The result was the sort of inoffensive, motherhood-and-apple-pie declaration that anyone and everyone could vote for, which didn’t exactly buff the party’s credibility as a foe of anti-Semitism.

Happily for Pelosi, Republicans can’t stay on message any better as a minority than they could as a majority. Twenty-three Republicans actually voted against the resolution — ostensibly because it didn’t rebuke Omar directly — inviting whoever runs against them next year to ask why they defended racism, anti-Semitism and the host of other forms of discrimination the resolution opposed.

(For the curious: Rep. Steve King, the immigrant-bashing Iowa Republican who recently was censured for making comments that seemed to tolerate white supremacy, voted “present.”)

It’s early yet, so Democrats may figure out how to get their act together. And they managed to pass HR 1 on Friday after turning back several GOP amendments and a motion to send it back to committee. Maybe someone will notice.

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Jon Healey writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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(12) comments

new2Lax

The fact is somebody voted for these Socialists, they do in fact represent these voters. The fact they are so off the rails as to how the majority of the country thinks means little to them. All these failed system's such as, Communism, Fascism, Socialism, got their start from some lunatic and you can bet many people thought they were just weird. No, these folks are for real. I guess the proof to a Democrat should be Trump but I noticed the lack of any comparison really means Trump is certainly not in that category or that would fill this post saying so.

oldhomey

Yes, the people who live in their congressional districts liked what these people were saying, and they voted them into the office. And yes, what the people in those congressional districts seem to be thinking does not match right now what the majority of the country is thinking. That does not make these individuals or their constituencies wrong or illegal. It makes them different that the majority. For now. For you to infer that what is going on is anti-democratic is revealing only about you, nothing else. They will have to try to sell their ideas in the marketplace of democracy. If the majority doesn't buy it, they will go bankrupt and disappear. Trump certainly is not in their category. He couldn't win the majority, losing by five million votes, but he has been acting like he had a huge mandate, riding roughshod over our laws ever since. He hasn't been doing a very good job of selling his agenda lately, has he? We'll see how the "socialists" do selling theirs. I have a feeling both camps, theirs and Trump's, will go bankrupt politically. Trump has more experience with bankruptcy than any politician in our history, both in business and in morality.

capedcrusader

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oldhomey

Are thank yous in order for Mr. Healey for plowing through fields already plowed, while planting nothing new or useful? Both parties are struggling with the extremities of their membership, something that has now been under discussion for years. But this little bit of exposition by Mr. Healey has me scratching my head in wonderment:

"Last week it was Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, whose inability to avoid anti-Semitic land mines in her critiques of U.S. policy toward Israel has given President Trump the opportunity to paint Democrats as the anti-Israel party.

"This is mystifying. There have been outliers in Congress for years in both parties, including weirdos such as James Traficant, D-Ohio, and Dana Rohrabacher, R-California, and extremists such as Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota. And while they occasionally embarrassed their colleagues, they were never held up as representative.

"Yet Omar somehow gets held up as the face of the Democratic Party?"

The Republicans have tried to vilify Nancy Pelosi for a decade now, making her a lightning rod for every sick trope they think they can hang around her neck. She has persevered, and I think overall -- including many Republicans -- are glad she is back in a leadership role with her steady hand at the helm.

So this snafu over Rep. Omar should surprise him and displease Mr. Healey? Now she joins another freshman congressional delegate, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, to be piled on endlessly by the GOP as the "faces" of the Democratic majority. They are not, no more than was Governor "I can see Russia from my backyard" of Alaska was ever the face of the Republican majority. At least not yet.

And Dennis Kucinich is indeed an extremist, a Democrat who calls himself "far left" while being pro-life, and a guy who praises Donald Trump's inaugural speech while supporting Trump's belief that the president is be-leaguered by a "deep state" conspiracy.

Rick Czeczok

Pelosi has already lost the party to the "New Socialist Party". Like it should be a surprise, she screwed up her first time around, so you put her back in place expecting something different. This is one screwed up party, that used to be somewhat normal.

oldhomey

Ricky, you of all people are the least qualified person I can imagine to be the judge of what is normal and what is not.

Rick Czeczok

That's because you failed at everything you did in life. Even draft dodging the Vietnam war and a total financial breakdown that kept you working until they bought you out, just to get rid of you. You of all people should not judge.

oldhomey

Oh, drat! Caught out by my personal Boswell, Ricky, again!

DMoney

They are becoming the faces of the party. You are ignorant to believe otherwise. They are younger, female, minorities, socialist and extreme. That is the new left, whether you like it or not. All polls indicate younger adults favoring socialism. Trump has made extremism an effective political tool. There is public outcry about Bernie being too "male" and "white". All the writing is on the wall--the left wants an embodiment of what they value most--and Cortez/Omar represent it.

oldhomey

Of course they represent the faces of the future of the Democratic Party, and the party should celebrate that because of the diversity they represent. But they are neophytes making neophyte mistakes, and while they may resent being reeled in by party elders, after a year or two at their jobs, perhaps they will begin to understand better how to proceed without scaring the bejesus out of everybody. They aren't the face of the Democratic Party yet, and they seem to be smart people. If they don't learn to slow down their declarations and subsequently hurt the party and the country, they likely will be out of a job. Trump after two years has learned nothing.

Rick Czeczok

Remember that people he said he is a socialist today because it's the flavor of the day. I can't wait to here him back out of this. Whatever you have now give it to the government because that is where it's going under your proposed socialist ideals. Why do you think Russia and China are so involved in Venezuela? It's called backing communism. You can find the definitions of socialism and communism, right next to one another.

capedcrusader

Jesus was a socialist.

Welcome to the discussion.

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