A Perfect Storm?
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that Richard Pombo has been very busy over the last several years trying to find newer and ever more awful ways to savage both our laws and our environment. But in the last couple of months, Pombo has been engaged in a veritable frenzy of environmental depredation.
Pombo bundled several of his more noxious attacks into the pending House budget reconciliation bill under the guise of deficit reduction. To raise revenues, Pombo proposed opening both the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and protected coastlines to oil and natural gas drilling, along with selling off federal land at fire-sale prices to companies that hold mining permits. At the same time he has supported spending cuts to food stamps, Medicaid, agriculture subsidies, student loans, and several other programs.
But something happened this week. With the Bush administration under siege on almost every front, moderate Republicans have suddenly found their voice. The Washington Post put it this way:
After five years of remarkable unity under Bush's gaze, divisions between Republican moderates and conservatives are threatening to paralyze the party.
"The fractures were always there. The difference was the White House was always able to hold them in line because of perceived power," said Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster. "After Tuesday's election, it's 'Why are we following these guys? They're taking us off the cliff.' "
Late yesterday, the House Republican leadership was forced to pull the budget reconciliation bill off the House floor when it became apparent that they did not have a sufficient number of votes to pass it. The House Republicans are caught in a game of push me/pull you. Moderates are refusing to pass the bill if it contains Pombo’s revenue-raising schemes along with spending cuts to social programs; meanwhile, Pombo is leading a group that threatens to vote against the bill if doesn’t contain those elements. And so they’re at an impasse.
But the fractures that Tony Fabrizio talks about didn’t just open this week.
With less fanfare, another group of Republicans has become active over the past year. Former Congressman Pete McCloskey, who was a Republican member of the House from 1967 to 1983, has been watching the antics of the current Republican-led House with mounting concern. In a Tracy Press op-ed, McCloskey explains his involvement with the Revolt of the Elders Coalition, an organization that is dedicated to removing ultra-conservative Republicans from office.
The Revolt of the Elders Coalition is an initiative organized by older Republicans who have served in Congress or in the executive branch and are deeply concerned about the present Republican leadership in the House. Our purpose is to educate the public about the DeLay Republicans, whom we believe have not only abandoned traditional Republican values, but also have dishonored and disgraced the party with their unethical conduct.
We have formed a 501 (c) (4) nonprofit corporation to examine and publish the actions and views of the DeLay Republicans for the edification of the voting public. We believe that a respected and balanced Republican leadership in the House will be beneficial to the nation and we would like to see a return of the kind of bi-partisan cooperation and courtesy on critical issues, which brought this nation world leadership and respect after World War II. These are not matters of Republican vs. Democrat or conservative vs. liberal; we see them as issues that transcend party loyalty and political philosophy.
There can be no greater goal today than restoration of faith of our people in our own government and those whom we elect to lead us.
And make no mistake, Pete McCloskey views Richard Pombo as one of the most dangerous of the DeLay Republicans. Since the founding of the Revolt of the Elders Coalition, McCloskey has been working to find a “reasonable Republican to take Pombo on” in 2006. So far, he has not found another Republican willing to run, and it is looking increasingly likely that McCloskey himself will come out of retirement to run against Pombo in next June’s primary. As a committed environmentalist, McCloskey, who co-chaired the first Earth Day in 1970 and co-wrote the Endangered Species Act in 1974, has good reason to dislike Richard Pombo. In an interview with the Contra Costa Times, the 78-year-old McCloskey, a former Marine, “who led six bayonet charges in Korea, says he can’t drink coffee on his deck and gripe about how many trees he has lost to the gophers while ‘religious zealots, big business, lobbyists and war-mongers take over the party.’”
I don’t know about you, but to me, this looks more like a chasm than a fracture. We’ll have to see how it all plays out, but 2006 looks like it’s going to be mighty interesting.