It’s a new year in Washington, and I cannot tell you how harmonious things are looking. “There’s plenty of common ground for bipartisan compromise,” said Harry Reid, the new Senate minority leader. Well, not in person. Reid fell off an exercise machine at his house last week and he’s staying home until he no longer looks as if he was pummeled on his way to the cafeteria. The Democrats’ second in command, Dick Durbin, promised that the Democrats would be “a much better minority” than the Republicans were. Meanwhile, the new majority leader, Mitch McConnell, promised to end Reid’s dictatorial tendencies and make the Senate “an engine for bipartisan achievement”. McConnell and Reid both have a talent for depressing, cranky oratory.
However, McConnell did interject a moment of levity when he suggested that the current rather remarkable strength of the American economy was because of consumer ebullience over the election of a Republican majority in the Senate. Anyhow, everybody in the Senate vowed to improve on last year’s performance. Then they instantly launched into a debate on the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Was this what you were hoping for, people? I know polls show the majority of Americans support the oil pipeline, which when completed would run from Canada to the Gulf. What’s the rush? The pipeline’s not going anywhere until a Nebraska court case gets worked out. And oil futures are currently down to around $50 a barrel, while the Canadian pipeline oil needs to sell for about $85.
Well, there are reasons. Passing the bill would make a lot of political donors happy. It would give senators a chance to demand that the US, which became the No. 1 oil producer in the world during the Obama administration, do something about energy independence. It’s a chance to talk about jobs, even though the actual permanent employment created by the pipeline would be about as large as the opening of a new highway tollbooth. Most important of all, the bill has a number of Democratic supporters, allowing orators to use the word “bipartisan” about 20 times a minute.
Meanwhile, in the very same new spirit of amity, House Speaker John Boehner assured the members that they would march into the future “on common ground, both in letter and in spirit”. This was right after his re-election. Yes, John Boehner is once again speaker of the House! The Republican alternatives included Representative Ted Yoho, the large-animal veterinarian from Florida who once argued that the Affordable Care Act was “racist” because it includes a tax on tanning beds. Let’s hope when we look back on the 114th Congress we don’t remember that the high point was John Boehner beating out Ted Yoho. In fact, a truly cynical mind might wonder if the whole rebellion wasn’t staged by Boehner partisans just to show how horrific the alternative was.
The New York Times