In the weeks immediately following the 2014 midterm elections, there was an enormous amount of talk about the need to avoid "poisoning the well." The point seemed to be, policymakers should be cautious about picking political fights in order to avoid partisan rancor in the new Congress.
Clearly, those concerns have been thrown out a Capitol Hill window.
House Democrats on Wednesday knocked down a GOP bill that would have delayed a key Wall Street reform known as the Volcker Rule, stunning Republican leaders who had expected it to pass with ease. [...] The bill would have allowed banks to hang onto billions of dollars in risky collateralized loan obligations for two additional years by amending the Volcker Rule, which is part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law. The rule bans banks from speculating in securities markets with taxpayer funds, requiring them to dump their CLO holdings. A Volcker Rule delay would be a major boon to the nation's largest banks.
Note, a majority of the House voted for the measure, but because Republican leaders brought the bill up under the suspension calendar, it needed a two-thirds majority to pass. It fell far short.
There are a few ways to look at yesterday's failure. The first, of course, is that House Republican leaders still haven't mastered the art of vote-counting. The second is that GOP lawmakers clearly remain committed to using their power to do Wall Street's bidding.
But even putting that aside, let's not miss the forest for the trees: on only the second day of the new Congress, House Republicans immediately turned their attention to a controversial proposal, backed by financial-industry lobbyists. These guys really aren't wasting any time.
Indeed, it's amazing to see just how aggressive the new Republican majority has been since taking its oath of office on Tuesday.
Barring crisis conditions, the start of a new Congress can generally be compared to the start of new school year: folks like to get settled in before tackling a lot of work. On Capitol Hill, some members, especially the freshmen, are still unpacking and learning their way around.
And it's against this backdrop that House Republicans this week are voting to undermine the Volcker Rule, undermine Social Security, undermine the Affordable Care Act, approve the Keystone pipeline, and impose irresponsible "dynamic scoring" rules -- all in the first three days.
It's one thing when lawmakers furiously try to get stuff done before the end of a Congress -- they tend to move quickly when facing an inflexible deadline -- but the House GOP majority seems desperate to get this new Congress off to a fast, far-right start, just for the sake of doing so.
What's more, we're not even going to touch the newly introduced legislation -- including major new abortion restrictions proposed yesterday -- which will be considered in the weeks and months to come. I'm just talking about measures on the House floor this opening week.
E.J. Dionne Jr. reminded us this morning, "This will be no ordinary Congress." Republicans are eager to prove this prediction true.