The GOP’s Self-Imposed Straightjacket

Republicans are tying themselves in knots with problematic legislation and pointless fights.

Editorial Cartoon on the Republican Party

By Feb. 9, 2015 | 8:00 a.m. EST+ More


Ever since the Republicans gained control of Congress in November, they have proceeded to box themselves into untenable positions – a veritable straight jacket.

The decision to link the Department of Homeland Security funding to an attack on the president’s immigration executive order was tantamount to issuing a threat that is impossible to deliver on without harming both our nation’s security and the Republican brand. After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rejected future Republican government shutdowns, the decision to hold Homeland Security funding hostage at a time of cyberattacks and heightened concern for terrorism takes the country right back down the shutdown road. Now Republicans have to figure out how to get themselves out of the mess they created.

Then, somehow, many Republicans followed the Michele Bachmann path of criticizing vaccines, or at least government involvement, just at the time of a measles outbreak – and following the Ebola scare. Presidential candidates are trying desperately to untangle themselves from past rhetoric and a desire to please the libertarian crowd, who seem to despise any sort of government regulation or intervention, even in the health care field.

[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on the Republican Party]

Do they have no memory of polio or smallpox or diphtheria or tetanus or the host of other diseases that vaccines have nearly wiped out in the United States? Is this really a smart policy position on which to invoke “individual liberty” – to allow parents not to immunize their children against deadly diseases? Why would a politician argue that it is not a good thing to use modern science to help eliminate historically devastating illnesses? Beats me.

Then we see House Speaker John Boehner engaging in a bit of unprecedented private diplomacy, as he invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of Congress just over one month before an election in Israel, without consulting with the White House, the State Department or others in the Democratic leadership. This was a Lone Ranger move if there ever was one, designed to give Netanyahu a political boost back home. Boehner created controversy and caused himself untold problems for no reason.

In addition, the Republican leadership has to untangle itself from legislation that involves controversial language on rape and its reporting, and on whether or not climate change exists and who is responsible if it does. And all of this is in addition to holding more votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act without offering any positive solutions in return.

[OPINION: Don’t Make Vaccines a Partisan Issue After Christie Remarks]

There also seems to be a clear Republican strategy of offering legislation that they know will result in a presidential veto, thereby furthering the public’s impression that congress gets nothing done and is increasingly engaged in partisan gridlock. For a president who has vetoed a grand total of two bills in six years, Barack Obama is not exactly known as fast on the trigger with a veto pen.

So the bottom line seems to be that the first few months of the Republican takeover have not been exactly productive, for the country or for the Republicans. They seem to find themselves in a self-imposed straightjacket they are having trouble removing.