Here’s a list of the current committee assignments (pdf) in the House of Representatives. It’s the best template available for trying to understand the makeup of the next Congress. There are obviously going to be some changes due to retirements and the results of yesterday’s elections. I think you can learn a lot by looking at this list. It brings into sharp relief just how hard it is going to be for the president to get any legislation passed. He can invite all the chairmen of the all the committees to the White House or out for a ride on Marine One, but none of them are going to want to play ball with him on anything. He can try to convince Ways & Means chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) to work with him on overhauling the tax code. That might be the most promising avenue, but it won’t be an easy sell. He can talk to Energy & Commerce chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Natural Resources chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) about tackling climate change. He can talk to Judiciary chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) about immigration reform. But it just seems unlikely that any of these men could deliver the votes of their Republican colleagues even if they wanted to.

This is what I was talking about prior to the election when I said that the Republicans are not legislators. The GOP seems to have a solid majority in the House for the foreseeable future, which means that they must get used to writing education policy and health policy and labor policy in ways that the Democratic Senate and the president can support. The problem is that they just don’t seem capable of doing that. What they’ll do instead is continue to legislate by crisis. They’ll refuse to raise the debt limit or pass appropriations bills to keep the government operating. They won’t compromise.

This is why the president needs to just let us go over the fiscal cliff. Once we are over it, the GOP has to pass laws to fix things. It will force them to legislate instead of simply obstruct. The GOP needs to learn how to do that if they are going to be a fixture in the House over the next decade. Our country is depending on them learning to do that.

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