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Posted at 4:00 PM ET, 01/26/2011

Will Tea Partyers buy the constitutional amendment con?

By Jonathan Bernstein

Bruce Bartlett has a great takedown today of H.J. Res. 1, the Balanced Budget Amendment, complete with even more links about what a foolish idea the amendment has always been -- even if you think the budget should be balanced every year. 

One of the big themes, it seems to me, of the current Congress is whether Speaker John Boehner and incumbent Republicans in general can keep conservative activists happy with feel-good symbolic votes, given that Republicans can't actually do most of the things that those activists say they want. After all, those things are often highly unpopular with the public at large (as Greg has pointed out repeatedly, even the Affordable Care Act repeal is unpopular, and slashing spending on specific programs is even less so), and at any rate aren't going to get through the Democratic Senate and the Democratic president of the United States.

The trick for Republican politicians is to keep activists highly agitated and energized for the 2012 election -- but to make sure that energy is directed away from any primary challenges to GOP incumbents, and if possible also away from quixotic campaigns for the Sharron Angles and Christine O'Donnells of the world.

Of course, that's the context behind the flat-out ACA repeal vote in the House. It's also the context behind anti-earmark rhetoric; opposition to earmarks has always been a purely symbolic way to attack federal spending (anyone concerned with substantive spending cuts would focus, obviously, on how much was spent, not how money spent was apportioned).

But the best form of purely symbolic vote is usually the constitutional amendment. After all, it's almost always impossible to pass one of those, so Republicans don't have to worry about the negative consequences if it goes through. In addition, the level of abstraction is high, so Republicans don't have to worry about getting called out for supporting unpopular specifics.

So it's no surprise at all that a Balanced Budget Amendment is high on the GOP agenda.

The real question, however, is whether activists -- and whether those voices in the partisan conservative media who serve as opinion leaders for those activists -- are going to settle for symbolism. If so, Boehner's a smart guy, and he can roll these out forever: there's still the (purely fraudulent) line-item veto, and Tea Partyer activists and other populists are bound to love congressional term limits.

The problem is twofold. On the one hand, backbench members and talk radio yakkers have an incentive, at least given the demonstrated conservative market, to stake out the most extreme position, so that whatever the speaker does winds up being defined as weak-kneed mush (given, again, the obvious fact that Boehner can't actually get this stuff enacted into law). And, on the other hand, true believers might notice that they're being asked to swallow symbolic fluff and demand that House Republicans take suicidal votes for deeply unpopular items. Against that is pure partisanship, and the possibility that conservatives will just agree to follow the lead of their highest-ranked elected official.

I have no idea how that question gets answered, but I do think it's one of the biggest things to watch for in the next few months.

By Jonathan Bernstein  | January 26, 2011; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  House GOPers, Tea Party, budget  
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Next: Happy Hour Roundup

Comments

The back story to this issue is: no leadership.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 26, 2011 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Gotta give it up to the R's. For sheer entertainment value they're tops.

How can anybody compete for grins against a party that can claim, Palin, Bachman, Gohmert,Tancredo, Broun, Perry, Angle, O'Donnell...well the list goes on and on..and if a TV script writer created these kinds of wack jobs they'd be laughed out of town for being unbelievable.

The R convention in 2012 should be very entertaining and it's just across the bay in Tampa. Should be soooo much fun to watch.

Posted by: rukidding7 | January 26, 2011 4:34 PM | Report abuse

The only things that matter is realizing that the last two years were an unprecedented disaster and the American people rose up to stop the madness.

The real Obama is gone now. His triangulating, alter-ego is filling in until November 2012.

Obama must try to fool enough suckers into forgiving him for the last two years and give him another chance.

Are there enough gullible saps out there that will swallow the buckets of bulls..t Obama serves up for them??

Sadly..........maybe.

Time will tell.

Posted by: battleground51 | January 26, 2011 4:36 PM | Report abuse

I just posted this on the last thread, and repeating here.
------------
Everyone knows that the new conservative government in England enacted an austerity program to reduce their debt. Now, they are beginning to reap their rewards of their moves:

" Prime Minister David Cameron's coalition government received a sharp political jolt on Tuesday with the release of official figures showing that Britain's economy contracted slightly in the last three months of 2010, prompting some economists to warn that the country was at increased risk of a "double dip" recession after four consecutive quarters of modest growth.

While the economic figures are subject to revision, the 0.5 percent shrinkage fell well short of the 0.5 percent growth many economists had predicted. And the wider message seemed clear: The slowdown placed the Cameron government's $128 billion, four-year program of spending cuts and tax increases -- policies on which it has staked its survival -- at sharply heightened political risk.

The net effect of the new figures was to blunt the government's momentum and to recast — at least until economic growth resumes -- the role Britain has played in the global debate about the best way back to prosperity."

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/26/world/europe/26britain.html

Posted by: suekzoo1 | January 26, 2011 4:42 PM | Report abuse

csintala,

You said on an earlier thread:

"One may look long and hard at the document, but will not find in it an endorsement of a particular economic ideology, neither socialism nor free market capitalism. In this regard, the only mention of property, the sine qua non of capitalism, is in the 5th Amendment, which prohibits taking property without due process of law (something that, in the case of suspected drug dealers, for example, has become a common occurrence). A logical interpretation of this clause is that property can be taken if due process is observed, i.e., the passing of a law to seize property is not precluded. In fact, under eminent domain, the government has the inherent right to seize property for the public good."

You should probably read the actual 5th Amendment, because you aren't even close to being right.

The 5th Am contains both the Due Process Clause and the Takings Clause. The latter provides that private property may not be taken for public use "without just compensation." So the government always has to pay for property it takes through eminent domain.

The Due Process Clause does not provide an independent avenue to seize property. The government could provide all the due process in the world, but without payment of just compensation, it may not take private property. Period and end of story.

Moreover, your notion that passing legislation constitutes due process of law is completely wrong. Due process of law is not a legislative concept. It means judicial due process.

In total, your claim that the government could institute socialism by passing confiscating property is . . . wildly incorrect. Indeed, if you were right, then Congress could pass legislation depriving people of their "lives" as well -- so long as it passed the legislation, that would be "due process" in your bizarre interpretation.

"It is a fact that the Constitution does not preclude establishment of socialism, only that this can only done through the legal legislative process;"

Um, wildly wrong. See above. You refer as well to what "case law" supposedly said. You've plainly never been to law school and know next to nothing about the Constitution. Leftists have spilled a lot of ink over the years trying to get to where you are trying to get, including some who at least know something about the Constitution, but they've been no more successful than you at it.

But please stop trying to mislead people into your own ignorance.

Posted by: quarterback1 | January 26, 2011 4:45 PM | Report abuse

By all means, more quixotic campaigns please, TeaOP.

Campaigns for Const. Amendments that don't have snowballs chance in Hades are also nice. We can only hope the Teabaggers will keep up the pressure.

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | January 26, 2011 4:47 PM | Report abuse

csintala,

You said on an earlier thread:

"One may look long and hard at the document, but will not find in it an endorsement of a particular economic ideology, neither socialism nor free market capitalism. In this regard, the only mention of property, the sine qua non of capitalism, is in the 5th Amendment, which prohibits taking property without due process of law (something that, in the case of suspected drug dealers, for example, has become a common occurrence). A logical interpretation of this clause is that property can be taken if due process is observed, i.e., the passing of a law to seize property is not precluded. In fact, under eminent domain, the government has the inherent right to seize property for the public good."

You should probably read the actual 5th Amendment, because you aren't even close to being right.

The 5th Am contains both the Due Process Clause and the Takings Clause. The latter provides that private property may not be taken for public use "without just compensation." So the government always has to pay for property it takes through eminent domain.

The Due Process Clause does not provide an independent avenue to seize property. The government could provide all the due process in the world, but without payment of just compensation, it may not take private property. Period and end of story.

Moreover, your notion that passing legislation constitutes due process of law is completely wrong. Due process of law is not a legislative concept. It means judicial due process.

In total, your claim that the government could institute socialism by passing confiscating property is . . . wildly incorrect. Indeed, if you were right, then Congress could pass legislation depriving people of their "lives" as well -- so long as it passed the legislation, that would be "due process" in your bizarre interpretation.

"It is a fact that the Constitution does not preclude establishment of socialism, only that this can only done through the legal legislative process;"

Um, wildly wrong. See above. You refer as well to what "case law" supposedly said. You've plainly never been to law school and know next to nothing about the Constitution. Leftists have spilled a lot of ink over the years trying to get to where you are trying to get, including some who at least know something about the Constitution, but they've been no more successful than you at it.

But please stop trying to mislead people into your own ignorance.

Posted by: quarterback1 | January 26, 2011 4:47 PM | Report abuse

"Should be soooo much fun to watch."

ruk, your Schadenfreude might be short lived if the wind shifts and the smoke from that tire fire comes across the bay. Who thought Tampa in August was a good idea anyway?

Posted by: shrink2 | January 26, 2011 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Again, the only poll that doesn't lie or make errors is the election poll. All other polls are estimations and approximations, many of them hopelessly biased.

The November "shellacking" is one of the worst mid-term disasters in American history. It amounted to a peaceful rebellion against the Obamanation. A popular uprising.

The Obama-Pelosi-Reid axis of incompetence caused it and the resulting damage to the Democrat party.

Obama's got a lot of explainig to do now. He must pull a double Clinton.

Think about it. Obama will not have a little, election spoiler like Ross Perot to help him win. Obama is on his own.

Well not exactly. Obama has the entire Democrat media machine to help him. That includes the Washington Post and most of its people. They are willing servants to Master Obama.

Posted by: battleground51 | January 26, 2011 5:23 PM | Report abuse


Another piece from Greg trying to make the case to IGNORE ELECTION RESULTS


The truth is we had an election- Liberalism and Obama have been REJECTED

Bait and Switch has been REJECTED


STOP WHINING


"seized control of the debate" Obama WORKS FOR the American People.

We had the "debate" - its called an ELECTION.

The liberals are completely out of their minds. Obama deserves what every employee gets when they don't do what they were hired to do: OBAMA DESERVES TO BE FIRED, ALONG WITH ALL THESE OTHER LIBERALS.

This entire debate took place last summer and fall - Obama and the liberals lost.

Obama LOST the election and lost the majority in the House of Representatives.

Two years from now there won't be much of a debate - the American People want Obama OUT and the American People want to TAKE BACK THE SENATE FROM THESE BAIT-AND-SWITCH CLOWNS.

The Obama Circus has been cancelled -


This American government is RUN BY THE PEOPLE, NOT THE LIBERALS. Get used to it.

The liberals are getting kicked out - at least for a generation. Soon the liberals will only have the most gerrymandered districts. Perhaps the American People can figure out a way after 2020 to take away the gerrymandered districts from the liberals as well.


THE OBAMA CIRCUS HAS BEEN CANCELLED.


.

Posted by: RainForestRising | January 26, 2011 5:36 PM | Report abuse

@battleground-

This ol' boy right here has got his ducks in a row re: polling- http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/author/nate-silver/

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | January 26, 2011 5:39 PM | Report abuse

Everyone with a little knowledge of our government understands that a bill needs two Houses of Congress plus the Presidenet's signature to become law.

The Tea Party is going to forge on - because they know they have UNFINISHED BUSINESS.

The democrats keep on making comments that the Tea Party can't do this, can't do that. However, after the next ELECTION, the Tea Party may be able to do EVERYTHING THEY WANT.


Such is the stuff about the "symbolic" votes. These are not symbolic, they are actual things the Tea Party wants to do.


In one level, the democrats are trying to claim the Tea Party doesn't understand because they don't have the votes right now. - OH NO, they understand how many votes they need to get in the next election.

The Balanced Budget amendment might be more symbolic.

However on health care, the Republicans have been firm in their resolve to DEFUND HEALTH CARE - which is completely viable given the votes they have in the House.


So this discussion is a little silly. The democrats are claiming one thing, when in fact they be the ones who simply do not understand.


The Republicans have to be FIRM in defunding health care.


.

Posted by: RainForestRising | January 26, 2011 5:46 PM | Report abuse

While I agree that a constitutionally balanced budget is a bad idea for all the many stated reasons of others, I thought Gramm-Rudman-Hollings was a step in the right direction and its repeal was a step in the wrong one.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | January 26, 2011 5:51 PM | Report abuse

What happened to Ethan??

It seems like the people who paid Ethan were horrified at his participation in the smear campaign against innocent people -

Ethan is gone - rather abruptly.


Anyway - Cao is still terrorizing the neighborhood.

And the Chicago office of the Obama is set to open soon - that will have a room full of paid trolls.


.

Posted by: RainForestRising | January 26, 2011 6:07 PM | Report abuse

Obama is much closer to the center than the Republican Party that has been taken over by Palin and teaparty extremists.

Cantor was afraid to disown the nutcase birthers on MTP! The Republicans are so far out of the center, as a party they are out there in the crazy fringes with Beck.

Posted by: Beeliever | January 26, 2011 6:13 PM | Report abuse

CON

I feel like half of Greg's pieces are Cons


.

Posted by: RainForestRising | January 26, 2011 6:20 PM | Report abuse

"Obama is much closer to the center than the Republican Party that has been taken over by Palin and teaparty extremists."

I happily admit to being an out and proud, flamboyantly Teabagging extremist, paid to disrupt liberal "consensus building" (you found me out Bernie, Kudos!)

Is there, or are there, any elected Democrats in the House, Senate, Presidency or Govenorships of the various States and Commonwealths, that are "leftist" extremists? Anybody just to far left and completely out of the mainstream?

Posted by: TrollMcWingnut | January 26, 2011 6:21 PM | Report abuse

It's pretty hard to be left and out of the mainstream given how left the country is (at least as defined by Limbaugh and company)

If you polled the positions of Bernie Sanders against the positions of say...Orrin Hatch, Sanders' positions would destroy Hatch's.

Posted by: DDAWD | January 26, 2011 6:33 PM | Report abuse

TMcW,

Kucinich, Waters, Frank, Weiner, Grayson (ex), Jackson-Lee, Conyers, Harkin...

Posted by: tao9 | January 26, 2011 6:36 PM | Report abuse

DDAWD: Sadly, actual policies seem to mean nothing these days. Sanders' policies are probably more palatable to the general public than Hatch's...until you tell them their ideological bents. Then all of a sudden, Sanders' policies are anti-American and Hatch's policies are what we should go after.

Policies don't matter. Labels do, and America knows how much it hates liberals more than it cares to fix anything.

Posted by: kryptik1 | January 26, 2011 6:39 PM | Report abuse

"If you polled the positions of Bernie Sanders against the positions of say...Orrin Hatch, Sanders' positions would destroy Hatch's."

Sure, if you polled in Ann Arbor, Burlington, Seattle, Cambridge, or Beijing.

Posted by: tao9 | January 26, 2011 6:40 PM | Report abuse

All, Happy Hour Roundup posted:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2011/01/happy_hour_roundup_172.html

Posted by: Greg Sargent | January 26, 2011 6:43 PM | Report abuse

battleground51,

Actually the truth is:
The only things that matter is realizing that the last TEN years were an unprecedented disaster and the American people rose up to stop the madness in 2008.


The rapacious corporations, their lobbyists and the GOP and a few corporatist Democrats got the people who had no respect for the will of the people obstructed in a Senate where 41 trumps 60.

These are people who will do all they can in hopes that the country fails rather than allow the 'other' to fix it.

Obama has not changed at all; he has always been a strong advocate of compromise, even in law school.


I'm so glad we have a grown up in the White House.

Posted by: sickofthemall | January 26, 2011 7:01 PM | Report abuse

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