Commentary: For most Americans, the end of the year is about winding down. Not so much in the world of politics.
Domestically, our elected leaders are rushing to avert a Washington-manufactured recession as we continue hurtling toward the fiscal cliff. You can tell something serious is happening when the rhetoric between the president and Congress begins to soften.
But having wasted the year since the debacle that nearly had the United States defaulting on its debt, it is not at all clear that negotiation can produce anything before January other than a broad framework for moving toward some kind of resolution next year.
Promising yet again to do something serious next year may temporarily avert crippling tax increases and massive spending cuts scheduled to kick in on Jan. 1. Until the details are worked out, business is still not likely to ramp up its own spending and hiring leaving the economic recovery listless at best.
Here in Texas, speaker politics will move to the front burner in the weeks immediately before the next session. Outside groups will attempt to raise the heat on Republicans who support incumbent Speaker Joe Straus because, despite evidence to the contrary, they say he is not a true conservative.
Meanwhile, some Democrats are angry with the Speaker because they complain the House passed redistricting and voter ID bills under Straus’ watch that two separate federal panels said intentionally discriminated against minorities.
Straus has only one announced opponent who may be little more than a stalking horse while other anti-Straus lawmakers seek to cobble together a coalition.
This is the quintessential insider’s game. In effect, the outside anti-Straus forces want a heavy handed Speaker to dominate the House and drive what they consider to be conservative agenda. But for most members, Straus leadership style is a good fit. The trains run on time, his primary focus is passing a budget and members are empowered to freely promote whatever legislation they feel important without interference from management.
The outside groups will likely make it ugly, but for the moment at least, Straus looks safe.