After years of acquiescing to President Bush’s demands, Congressional Republicans finally showed some spine when the majority of them opposed the TARP. Sure, it was election-year calculus, and a few of them sounded really dumb when the complained about Nancy Pelosi hurting their feelings, but at least they were acting like that Class of ’94 again, and the base loved it.
It’s time to do that again, only this time with the auto industry bailout. We’ve argued why a bailout would be a mistake, but it’s clear that Obama is going to ignore our advice, not to mention Congressional Democrats. With a substantial minority in the House, it’s hard to see Republicans blocking a deal, if the Dems get their caucus in order, but it’s a chance to draw a line in the sand, and make it the first politically costly vote of the 2008-2010 Congress. To chip away at Democratic gains, they’ll need to stand athwart a series of big government votes, but the good news is that Obama and Pelosi and Reid should give them plenty of opportunities.
With a minority that’s increasingly confined to the South and rural areas, the party doesn’t have much to lose anymore. On the other hand, individual politicians will always be tempted to bring their constituents the bacon. We’re particularly interested in Michigan Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, who was among the most principled and forceful opponents of the TARP. But he’s from Michigan. And judging from what we’ve read so far, his laissez-faire attitude doesn’t extend to auto. He signed onto a letter from the broader Michigan Delegation urging Federal action for the industry last month.
So although we hope the Republicans continue to push back against more bailouts, it’s not clear whether they’re being principled, or whether it’s just been politically easy to stand up against a New York-centric industries when your based in the South or Midwest.
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