BILL MINOR: Republicans face questions about tax cuts and revenue holes to fill

JACKSON – “Gridlock on steroids” is the way one pundit describes how the Republican-controlled House of Representatives will impact the next Congress. From what we’ve heard post-election, that pundit seems on target.
House Speaker-to-be John Boehner surprisingly urged fellow Republicans to curb their victory chutzpah and at least leave the door partly open to working with Democrats. But to keep Tea Partiers off his neck, he reminded repeal of the Obama health care reforms remained on the front burner.
By contrast, Senate GOP minority leader Mitch McConnell not only showed no sign of holding out an olive branch to Democrats, he said his No. l target was to make President Obama a one-term president with repeal of the health care reform act ( “spending care,”– he says.) Mind you, not a word about jobs, deficit or two endless wars draining millions of dollars and taking dozens of lives of Americans.
Why don’t we hear Mississippi Republicans say anything about the sudden departure of Trent Lott and Chip Pickering, and with it the loss of 40 years of seniority, the most powerful weapon this small state has in Congress.
The two new Republican House members Mississippi has sent to the U.S. House of Representatives – Alan Nunnelee and Steven Palazzo – have been strict party-line followers in the Legislature and will be easily herded by GOP leadership in Congress if stalemate becomes the party tactic. Nunnelee, as chairman of the Senate Appropriations committee, was noted for delaying key budget bills after House-Senate negotiators reached agreement so that he could t get Gov. Haley Barbour’s OK. Lawmakers’ verdict on Nunnelee: Nice fellow to talk with, but a poor listener when given details about prospective legislation.
Palazzo has scant state legislative experience and has allied himself with extreme right wing causes that prompted one respected legislative veteran to characterize him as “dangerous” and virtually certain to affiliate with the small “Tea Party” caucus in Congress. Another describes the young Harrison County lawmaker as a “pretty face, with no substance.”
It’s little short of amazing in the Nov. 2 mid-term election that President Obama was punished by voters – obviously swayed by gross distortions and outright lies – for enacting the Health Care reform act (covering 31 of the 46 million Americans without health care insurance) after presidents for 70 years tried unsuccessfully to enact universal health care. We are the only industrialized nation in the world without universal health care, even though we spend over twice more on health care than any other nation.
The biggest lies told about the Health Care Reform Act are that it doesn’t do anything to save money and will increase elders’ Medicare costs. No less an authority than Peter Orzag, until recently director of the White House Office of Budget and Management, says the act will cut the nation’s long-term fiscal imbalance by one-fourth and reduce the projected deficit within Medicare by three-fourths. The reform act includes billions of dollars worth of cuts in payments to providers. It creates penalties for hospitals with high rates of readmission and hospital-acquired infections, and binds doctors and hospitals to offer coordinated care that experts believe would save money in complex cases.
An independent panel of medical experts created by the act would look for more ways to improve Medicare’s cost-effectiveness. Thus, if newly empowered Republicans should carry out their threats to repeal these provisions in the new law, it would have the opposite effect from the promise they made to improve health care and lower government costs.
Or if the Repubs talking loudly about extending the Bush income tax cuts from expiring on Dec. 31 and also reducing the federal deficit, how are they going to fill the $700 billion hole the Bush cuts would make in next year’s revenue?
As conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthit said this week, the Republicans have been all talk, but are not ready for governance.

Bill Minor has covered Mississippi politics since 1947. Contact him at P.O. Box 1243, Jackson, MS 39215-1243, or e-mail at edinman@earthlink.net.

Bill Minor