Friday, December 23, 2011

Kidnappers With a Conscience

It is so much harder to be a kidnapper after you let slip that you have a conscience and don’t really want to hurt your victims. All of a sudden, you have to start negotiating everything. That is the predicament the House Republican caucus will find itself in when the next session of Congress begins in a few weeks.

All year long the House Republicans have been holding the national economy hostage, threatening to blow up the train if they didn’t get their way. In July, having put the U.S. government into bankruptcy, they issued a series of demands, and when those were met, responded by issuing more demands. It was more of a tantrum than a negotiating tactic.

It was the same thing this week, but the outcome was different this time. There was something obviously off about the performance when the House Republicans stabbed their Senate colleagues in the back, then held a gun to Santa’s head and exclaimed, “What’s in it for us?” The tantrum was real, but the threats were hollow. In the end, left alone in the house with the biggest bomb they could have had on their Christmas wish list, the House Republicans failed to light the fuse.

It is the same Congress that comes back in a couple of weeks, and it will be inevitably be the same pattern of brinksmanship, but it won’t be quite the same after this. It can’t be, now that the whole world knows that the House won’t really blow up the U.S. economy.