In a recent House Budget Committee hearing on inflation, Rep. Sam Devine (R-Ohio) was criticized by two Democrats for being "partisan" because he suggested that the Democrats were responsible for the mess in Washington, having controlled Congress for 43 of the past 47 years. When things are not going well, it's understandable that the party in power would like to spread the blame around.
Congress, of course, is completely structured along Partisan lines. The majority party organizes the committees, decides what legislation will be brought to the floor and has the power to bind its members to vote a certain way. The majority party therefore must hear the greatest responsibility for what Congress does.
Too often Congress as a whole is criticized for passing a law when it actually is passed by the majority over the opposition of the minority.
The American people are roaring at Washington for less government, and the Democratic majority is responding with a whimper, while the Republican minority is enthusiastically embracing their cause.
Voting patterns on the federal budget are an excellent illustration of the differences between the two parties. The votes cast in the House on the Second Congressional Budget Resolution for Fiscal 1980, proposed by the Democrats, versus the Republican alternative, are hard evidence of fundamental differences. They also demonstrate what the American people could expect from a Republican Congress.
The Democratic budget proposed to tax cuts, effectively locking in the higher taxes caused by inflation and the increase in Social Security taxes. The Republican alternative proposed a $20 billion tax cut in Fiscal 1980 and a $170 billion tax cut over the next five years.
The Democratic budget proposed a deficit of $29 billion. The Republican alternative reduced it to $20 billion in 1980, making a balanced budget more likely by Fiscal 1981.
The Democratic budget cut $1.8 billion from the president's proposed defense spending, while the Republican alternative restored most of those funds.
The Democrats' federal spending projections for Fiscal 1981 represent about 12 percent of the gross national product, the highest federal spending share of GNP in peacetime history. The budget in 1981 at 20.2 percent of GNP, or a burden on the taxpayer nearly $40 billion lower.
The high-deficit, no-tax-cut Democratic budget was supported by 203 Democrats and only three Republicans, while the GOP lower-deficit, tax-cut proposal was supported by 148 republicans (97 percent), but was defeated by 226 Democrats, demonstrating that there is more than a dime's worth of difference between the two parties.
House Republicans have pushed for a constitutional amendment to balance the budget and reduce federal spending, as overwhelmingly endorsed by the Republican Policy Committee and evidenced by over 103 Republicans co-sponsoring such an amendment. Conversely, the Democrats have formed a coalition, "Citizens for the Constitution," to fight the idea, and the Democrat-controlled Judiciary Committee is attempting to diffuse the issue by proceeding with catatonic zeal.
The national debt ceiling was increased to $879 billion by the vote of 214 Democrats and five Republicans, with 27 percent of the Republicans voting no."
An important procedural vote to require a three-fifths vote to unbalance the budget and go into deficit spending was defeated by a majority of Democrats (215), even though 99 percent of the Republicans (133) supported the action.
The original Carter gas-rationing plan was rejected even though a majority of Democrats (112) vote for it, because an overwhelming majority of Republicans (140) teamed up with a minority of Democrats (106) to defeat it.
An amendment to prohibit use of funds to enforce compulsory use of automobile air bags (passive restraints) was adopted with 81.4 percent of the Republicans (123) supporting it and 59.9 percent of the Democrats (157) opposing it.
The administration-sought Department of Education was opposed by 80.5 percent of the Republicans (124) and by 29 percent of the Democrats. The department, which will increase the bureaucratic and regulatory burden of the taxpayers, became a reality, however, when 185 Democrats (70.6 percent) and 30 Republicans (19.4 percent) voted for it.
The administration was handed a major defeat when, joined by 99 Democrats (38.5 percent), 135 Republicans (94.4 percent) adopted an amendment to remove the threat of mandatory controls from another massive regulatory scheme -- the hospital cost containment bill.
Although opposed by 81.9 percent of the Republicans, the House approved the conference report to implement the Panama Canal give-away. Only five days before the treaties went into effect, 196 Democrats and 36 Republicans passed the measure over the oppostion of 118 Republican and 70 Democrats.
The House voted (414 to 0) to censure Rep. Charles Diggs (D-Mich.) for misuse of his clerk-hire funds after it killed a Republican-led effort to consider Diggs' expulsion. Convicted of 29 felony counts for diversion to personal use of more than $70,000 in congressional employee salaries, he was spared the expulsion possibility by 193 of his fellow Democrats, joined by 12 Republicans. Sixty-three Democrats joined 134 Republicans in behalf of the motion to consider.
Using harsher language against the 134 Republicans than he had against Diggs, Speaker Tip O'Neill lashed them with that word -- "partisanship."
As the speaker knew, Republicans, totaling 159, represent only one-third of the House membership, but their cohesiveness makes them a force to be reckoned with. On 46 key votes in 1979, House Republicans amassed a record of 92.6 percent support of Republican Policy Positions and Whip Calls.
Is there more than a dime's worth of difference between Republicans and Democrats in Congress? You bet there is! Those Democratic charges of "partisanship" underscore the vast degree of that difference. If the people want to cash in on that difference, they must first change the makeup of Congress.