In his office on the second floor of the Capitol, House Speaker John Boehner leaned back in his chair and let out a satisfied sigh. "It's been a busy 100 days," he said, addressing the Salon reporter sitting across the desk from him. "I'm tired, but I'm happy." Then he turned to look out the window and surveyed the sprawling construction site where $787 billion in federal cash was transforming the National Mall into a Ronald Reagan mausoleum and theme park.
"Who would've thought, on Nov. 5, 2008, that I would be sitting here little more than two years later?" said Boehner. "I thank God, and Barack Obama, and the wisdom of the American people."
Few people, except for Charlie Cook, predicted the GOP takeover of the House in the 2010 elections. Some observers give credit for the victory to campaign media consultant Dick Morris, who won a Clio award for his groundbreaking television ad "The president is black." Most inside the Beltway, however, applauded Boehner's expert campaign generalship and aggressive messaging, which raised the question, without making any irresponsible accusations, of whether Democrats were organ thieves. The power shift was, of course, incomplete on Election Day — the GOP won only five seats, cutting the Democratic margin from 257-178 to 252-183. But once the entire 52-member Blue Dog Coalition defected to the Republicans — erstwhile Democrat Heath Shuler said the election results were a "sweeping rejection of Obama's radical agenda" — the House was firmly back in Republican hands.
One hundred and one days into the 112th Congress, the new GOP majority has already left an indelible mark on Washington — many marks, in fact, since Boehner now requires House Republicans to carry concealed weapons, and not with the safety on, either. The Speaker and his party had already achieved much of their ambitious 100-day agenda before the end of January.
The first legislation the GOP pushed through Congress outlawed all "death panels" at any level of government. The Liberating Individuals from Vile Euthanasia And Illegal Death Act, usually known as LIVE AID, was an attempt to play to the Republican base and to get on Sarah Palin's Facebook page, but leading GOP officials also said the law was needed in case President Obama still wanted to hunt down and kill America's elderly population. "We voted that bill down once," said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. "But there's no telling what this White House might try. Better safe than sorry."
LIVE AID passed the House 434 to 1, with only Ron Paul, R-Texas, voting no. It also sailed through the Senate. Democrats had picked up six Senate seats in the 2010 elections, giving them a 66-34 majority, though that fell to 65-35 after Joe Lieberman joined the GOP. But despite their expanded majority in the Senate, the party's moderates joined the GOP there to push the Republican House bill through; Obama signed it, in the name of bipartisanship. A day later, the president signed a second bill, Protecting Medicare From Democrats, which Senate sponsor John McCain said was "meant to keep government's hands off Medicare."
A week later, the House passed the Wealth Production Act, which repealed the estate tax and the capital gains tax and lowered taxes on "wealth producers" with annual incomes above $200,000. On the same day, it passed a bill to allow citizens to carry any firearms they want wherever they go, concealed or unconcealed. Calling it the "Patrick Henry Act of 2011," GOP leaders said the legislation would finally end government tyranny. "It is completely rational for a gun owner to feel the need to arm himself when going to work or doing errands — like going to the post office," Boehner said. The bill was sponsored by freshman Rep. William Kostric, R-N.H. Though Democrats still hold a strong majority in the Senate, the party's moderates joined the GOP minority to push both Republican House bills through; Obama signed them, in the name of bipartisanship.
Next on the agenda came a bill outlawing socialism, which was followed immediately by others outlawing communism, Marxism, Leninism, Stalinism, Trotskyism, Saul Alinskyism, Bill Ayersism and Nazism. All of the bills were named after Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, a reward for her prescience in warning less than two months into Obama's administration that he was turning the country red with "a great leap forward toward ... socialism." Though Democrats still hold a strong majority in the Senate, the party's moderates joined the GOP minority to push the Republican House bills through; Obama signed them, in the name of bipartisanship.
In February, the House passed legislation ending all federal aid to Detroit auto manufacturers, redirecting the money instead to non-union foreign auto plants in the South. In a repeat of 2009's popular Cash for Clunkers program, Republicans pushed through a new proposal allowing drivers to trade in any Ford, General Motors or Chrysler vehicle for up to $5,000 in rebates on Toyota, Kia, Honda or Nissan products.
In March, Congress passed, and the president signed, bills prohibiting the reimposition of the Fairness Doctrine and the use of anything but the dollar as U.S. currency. In April, lawmakers cut off all funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, despite warnings from the Obama administration that Congress was playing politics with national security. The newly empowered isolationist wing of the GOP argued that America simply couldn't afford to continue to keep troops in the Middle East, since they were too urgently needed to patrol the U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada. Democrats grumbled that the only reason the GOP didn't want to fund the wars anymore was because Obama, and not George W. Bush, was in the White House. But though the party still holds a strong majority in the Senate, moderate Democrats joined the GOP minority to push the Republican House legislation through; Obama signed it, in the name of bipartisanship.
It was not until the 100th day that the House finally addressed the issue that brought thousands of new Republican voters to the polls in November: the question of Obama's citizenship. In a series of bills known as the Orly Taitz Full Employment Act of 2011, the House required all candidates for federal office to wear their birth certificate pinned to their shirts while campaigning; made it illegal for children of teenage mothers from Kansas to seek federal office; and in a "freedom of conscience" clause, allowed all U.S. citizens to decide for themselves whether Hawaii was or was not a state. "It is simply wrong for the government to force people to violate their most sacred beliefs," said Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz. "Hawaii may or may not be a state; the jury is still out on that important question. Until the 'theory' of Hawaiian statehood is finally proven, Americans should be allowed to make their own minds up." Though Democrats still hold a strong majority in the Senate, the party's moderates joined the GOP minority to push the Republican House bill through; Obama signed it, in the name of bipartisanship. In a similar spirit of consensus-seeking, Republican removed a provision from the bill that would have compelled President Obama to add an asterisk to his signature.
What will the next 100 days hold? In his office, Speaker Boehner paused to smooth a mysterious ointment into his bronzed face, and then, smiling, hinted at even bolder moves to come. "As Ronald Reagan once said, 'I am not frightened by what lies ahead, and I don't believe the American people are frightened by what lies ahead.' Also, we're going to make death panels even more illegal. Like, super double illegal."