The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion How many nutty stances can one party take?

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on July 21, 2021. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

President Biden, despite his party’s thin House majority and the 50-50 Senate, has arguably passed more important bills than any president since Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society. And LBJ had a filibuster-proof Senate majority throughout his presidency (a high of 68 Democrats at one point) and huge House majorities (his low, after the 1966 election, was a 61-vote advantage).

With the passage Sunday of the historic Inflation Reduction Act, which would invest in green energy, contain prescription drug costs and make it much more difficult for big corporations to evade paying taxes, Democrats capped a run of victories. That includes the American Rescue Plan, the infrastructure plan, the gun-safety bill, the semiconductor manufacturing bill, expanded health care for veterans exposed to burn pits, reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, Senate approval for admitting Sweden and Finland to NATO, and confirmation of 76 federal judges (including the first Black female Supreme Court justice).

Throw on top of that the 9 million jobs gained since Biden took office; the widely successful rollout of coronavirus vaccination and treatments that are preventing serious illness for the vast majority of Americans; the record-low 8 percent uninsured rate; and the killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, and it’s clear this administration has a remarkable record.

Biden certainly has not gotten everything he wanted. Voting rights reform, subsidized child care, free community college and the rest of the expansive Build Back Better plan did not get through. The Senate has not been able to codify Roe v. Wade, protections for gay marriage or access to contraception. And while gas prices have dropped by roughly a dollar, they are still historically high, contributing to high inflation.

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But think of it from the other perspective. What did the vast majority of Republicans vote against? It’s gobsmacking:

  • Republicans opposed the American Rescue Plan en masse, including measures to reduce child poverty by 40 percent, protections from eviction during the height of the pandemic, money to tackle the coronavirus, food assistance for those going hungry during the pandemic, and money to keep businesses from failing and first responders from being laid off at the state and federal levels.
  • All but 19 Senate Republicans and 13 House Republicans voted against the infrastructure plan.
  • More than 30 Republican senators voted against the modest gun safety bill. All but 14 House Republicans opposed it.
  • 174 House Republicans voted against the Pact Act, the bill to provide health care to sick veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And after inexcusably delaying the bill in the Senate, more than 10 Republicans voted against it.
  • Republicans almost unanimously opposed an independent Jan. 6 commission; a voting rights bill (including the reauthorization of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which used to draw virtual unanimous approval); and the impeachment or conviction of Donald Trump for orchestrating a failed coup.
  • Republicans voted overwhelmingly against measures to stop gas price gouging and against capping insulin at $35 (193 Republicans in the House and 43 in the Senate).
  • Senate Republicans unanimously opposed the Inflation Reduction Act, putting them on the side of dozens of major corporations that pay nothing in federal taxes and tax scofflaws who, because of lack of funding for the IRS, avoid paying their fair share.
  • The vast majority of House Republicans voted against access to contraception. About 75 percent voted against gay marriage. And virtually all of them voted against codifying Roe, against privacy protection for women who use pregnancy-related apps and against protections for women to travel to another state for reproductive health care.

For any member not representing a deep-red district or state, many of those votes are not only problematic but indefensible.

What and whom are Republicans for? According to their votes: forced birth, protecting big corporations and tax cheats from paying taxes, the National Rifle Association and Second Amendment absolutists, oil companies and Big Pharma, to name a few things. The ties that bind them — aversion to lifesaving coronavirus vaccines, election denial, censorship, reverence for the Confederacy and persecution of LGBTQ Americans — used to be considered beyond the pale. Now, they are standard positions.

Understandably, voters are upset about inflation, although the GOP has yet to lay out a single coherent plan to address it. Meanwhile, agenda items that Republicans have put forth are grossly unpopular and bizarre (e.g., raising taxes on poor people, repealing the Affordable Care Act, making Social Security and Medicare discretionary).

Certainly, poor candidate selection represents a challenge to the GOP, but even the slickest candidate would have a hard time peddling this loony stuff. Whatever Democrats’ errors and inadequacies might be, as least they don’t believe in all this hooey.

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