Who Bends the Rules Better?

Having just criticized Democrats for being feckless cowards, now I’ll take the other side of the argument. Why? Just to be annoying, I guess. Here is Matt Yglesias commenting on the fact that Paul Ryan disparaged reconciliation when it was used to pass healthcare reform but approves of it wholeheartedly when it’s used to repeal healthcare reform:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I think this is a really genuinely and non-ironically praiseworthy attribute of the Republican congressional caucus that makes congressional Democrats look really, really bad….Republicans are determined to follow the actual laws and rules. When in the minority, they don’t rebel. They don’t murder their political opponents, they don’t organize coups d’état. What they do is they try to win legislative battles through all the tools at their disposal. And when in the majority they . . . do the same thing. They believe, strongly, that letting wealthy businessmen get what they want is good for America, and they go about doing that with seriousness of purpose. Many Democrats, by contrast, seem to believe that their highest responsibility is to make themselves look good, to preen for the cameras, or to maximize their own personal authority.

OK, but look: Democrats did use all the tools at their disposal to pass healthcare reform. They hauled out reconciliation and used it in a very unusual way to overcome Senate rules and pass the final bill. And there’s more. Obama has made increasing numbers of recess appointments. He used TARP to rescue GM and Chrysler even though that was pretty plainly not what TARP was intended for. Dems passed PAYGO rules and then declared anything that violated it “emergency spending.” Likewise, they denounced closed rules when they were out of power but used them routinely when they took over the House. Just last week Obama appointed Elizabeth Warren as a White House special advisor to run the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as a way of evading the normal rules for Senate confirmation.

Are Republicans even more ruthless and hypocritical about procedural hurdles than Democrats? Probably. Is this stuff praiseworthy or just part of the rough-and-tumble of politics? I’m not sure, though I can say that it mostly doesn’t bother me a whole lot. Either way, though, even if Nancy Pelosi doesn’t quite measure up to Tom DeLay in this department, Dems aren’t exactly babes in the woods when it comes to manipulating the system.

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