This is a day when President Obama and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) deserve each other – and I don’t mean that in a good way.
Last night, Roll Call reported that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) will be going to the White House this afternoon to attend the bill signing ceremony for the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act. Even after many years in Washington, I find this particular Kabuki theater a bit too much to stomach. I especially feel for the parents of Gabriella Miller who are likely unaware how they are being used in this cynical game.
To recap, Congress recently passed a bill that takes away public financing from the quadrennial national party conventions and supposedly uses that $12 million for pediatric cancer research. If it actually did this, I wouldn’t be writing this piece. After all, sick kids should always get priority over greedy politicians?
But let’s go deeper into the Washington game that is being played and remind everyone of what is really going on.
For several Congresses now, the House Republican majority has been attempting to dismantle the presidential public financing system. This obsession with dismantling the system is a bit strange given that the system is dying anyway, the victim of changing times and orchestrated failures by Congress to update and fix the public financing system. These failures have been led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who has fought every attempt to update the system for the 21st Century.
But nevertheless, the determination to go after the public funding for the national convention persisted. Up to now, the efforts failed, blocked by a President who issued a policy statement in 2011 opposing the funding cut off.
But House Majority Leader Cantor, being a savvy political operator, came up with a new tactic. He narrowed the bill to focus on the conventions and then named the bill for a young Virginia girl who died of brain cancer. Using Washington gobbledygook legislative slight-of-hand, he designed the repeal in a way that gives the impression it is reprogramming the convention funds to pay for NIH pediatric research.
Problem is, the bill doesn’t actually do that. Rather, it takes away the money from the conventions and merely “authorizes” (and doesn’t allocate) those funds for NIH research. The bill doesn’t actually appropriate the money to the NIH nor does it change the caps the NIH appropriations work under.
But unlike 2011 when President Obama’s Administration said the effect of the effort to repeal the presidential public financing system would “be to expand the power of corporations and special interests in the Nation’s elections,” and “place a premium on access to large donor or special interest support,” this time President Obama decided to play ball. After all, a photo op with bereaved parents and a phony show of bipartisanship apparently outweigh all other considerations.
This is the same President who was the first to opt out of public financing, a President who has let the Federal Election Commission languish throughout almost all of his time in office without replacing expired Commissioners, a President who set up a nonprofit entity run by his cronies to solicit money for his agenda, and a President who allowed his top Administration officials to raise money for Super PACs.
If you come across the pictures of the bill signing in tomorrow’s paper, don’t forget the whole thing is little more than a convenient photo op for two cynical political operatives trying to put a dirty business in a good light.