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In Praise of the House

Jan 2, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 16 • By YUVAL LEVIN
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As the year drew to a close, there were even glimmers of movement toward such a reform among Democrats. In November, the New York Times reported that some congressional Democrats were quietly coming to the conclusion that not only was premium-support not an assault on the elderly, but that, “if carefully designed, with enough protections for beneficiaries—it might work.” In December, one of those Democrats—Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon—stepped forward to offer a premium-support proposal together with none other than Paul Ryan. Not even the most optimistic champions of market-based entitlement reform could have imagined such a thing a year ago.

There were, of course, serious missteps this year too. In the debt-ceiling talks, Republicans agreed to an arrangement involving steep defense cuts if the “supercommittee” failed to reach its deficit-reduction target, as it was all but destined to do. And at times the House majority has refused to take “yes” for an answer—indeed, if not for a needless delay in passing Speaker Boehner’s debt-ceiling proposal, some of the defense cuts in the final deal might well have been avoided.

But, given the fact that they controlled only one house of Congress while Democrats held the other and the presidency, Boehner and his members have a lot to be proud of. They showed that it is not always true that “it is the president who sets the agenda for our government.” Confronted with a very liberal but weak and ineffective president, House Republicans managed to play an outsized role in setting that agenda, and in helping the public to see why electing a new president should top the agenda for 2012.

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