Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) is generally a reliable source for over-the-top rhetoric. It was Sessions, for example, who said shortly after President Obama’s inauguration in 2009, that House Republicans would look at “the Taliban” as a tactical “model.” GOP lawmakers, he said at the time, would emulate “insurgency” tactics.
Yesterday, Roll Call published a piece that included some similarly striking candor from Sessions.
In the year since relinquishing that gig and taking the gavel of the Rules Committee, the Texas Republican is still focused on politics and elections – and scoring points for the GOP. And right now, he’s got one target in his sights.“Everything we do in this body should be about messaging to win back the Senate,” he said. “That’s it.”
I can appreciate why cynicism may make comments like these seem predictable – of course House Republicans want to see their party win a Senate majority – but this is a pretty remarkable thing for a sitting lawmaker to say out loud, on purpose, on the record.
Ordinarily, we’ll hear members of Congress say, “Everything we do in this body should be about creating jobs.” Or maybe, “Everything we do in this body should be about helping the middle class.” But not Pete Sessions – he thinks “everything” the House does for the foreseeable future should be about influencing Senate races and helping Republican candidates.
In other words, according to this House GOP leader, half-way through the 113th Congress, Republicans should give up on governing altogether. All that matters is politics, campaign considerations, and “messaging.”
In terms of the larger context, keep three angles in mind. First, this Congress is already on track to be the single least productive in generations, and if Sessions is right, this will not get better. Second, there’s actual work lawmakers should be tackling, but if House Republicans officially abandon the pretense of caring about governing, their sole record going into the 2014 midterms will be a government shutdown, a series of hostage crises, and a culture-war crusade the American mainstream has no use for.
Finally, when it comes to the post-policy thesis, it’s tough to top, “Everything we do in this body should be about messaging to win back the Senate. That’s it.” As we’ve discussed, the hallmark of post-policy nihilism is the belief that policy outcomes and substantive governing are largely irrelevant – which apparently summarizes Pete Sessions’ worldview quite nicely.
This was an exchange between Rachel and Ezra Klein back in March:
MADDOW: Does that mean that [Republican policymakers are] post-policy, that the policy actually – even some things that seem like constants don’t actually a matter them, that it’s pure politics, just positioning themselves vis-a-vis the president, and they’re not actually invested in any particular outcome for the country?KLEIN: I would like to have an answer where that isn’t true. I really would. And I’ve tried – I’ve been trying to find it. I’m sure part is I’m not smart enough to do so, that I’ve not found the right people to have spoken to them. But it is hard to come up with one.
At the time, Rachel and Ezra were talking about budgets and fiscal arguments, but couldn’t their exchange apply to just about every possible political debate in the United States right now?
For Pete Sessions, this is a feature, not a bug. Governing, bipartisan cooperation, finding common ground, working on policy through a series of compromises – these may be fine ideas for saps, but House Republicans shouldn’t bother with any of this.
For pundits and pols trying to understand the roots of Washington dysfunction, wonder no more.