Dana Milbank: Braveheart Republicans or False-Hearted?

House Republican leaders prepare to speak to the press. (Getty)
House Republican leaders prepare to speak to the press. (Getty)

Fresh from our "What's wrong with this picture?" file, Dana Milbank of the Washington Post is reporting that House Republicans "huddled" in the basement of the Capitol building to liken themselves to the 13th-century Scottish rebel William Wallace portrayed in the film Braveheart. Instead of discussing the pros and cons of voting against a payroll-tax cut for the middle class or an extension of jobless benefits for the unemployed, they cheered themselves for "holding the line" against a bipartisan group that had reached a compromise on these issues.


The Republicans, who lobbied on behalf of the continuance of significant tax cuts for the wealthy, voted for a tax increase on the middle class. They also thought it a good idea to leave millions of unemployed Americans without unemployment benefits. Instead of getting on board with the rest of Congress, including all but eight Senate Republicans, they were huddled in the basement recounting stories about the Braveheart, to such an extent that they chanted, "Hold! Hold! Hold! Hold!" in unison, just like the film.

Milbank takes the GOP to task for reimagining the film, just like House Republicans seem to be reimagining their position in society. Have they forgotten that this is reality, not some fantasy through which they get to gallivant through a movie set chopping off the heads of middle-class Americans and the unemployed?

Enamored with power, House Republicans are overlooking the needs of many Americans, which polls show favor the middle-class tax cut and extending jobless assistance. Instead, they recite movie lines, demonstrating an elevated sense of self and ignorance about the film, which championed the downtrodden over those in power.

The irony of this situation is that House Republicans are so puffed up with pride that they cannot see how they are complicit in the demise of the political process and the storied reputation of the Republican Party. This is what happens when you hand over the reins of a legitimate political party to a group of zealots who ask not what they can do for their country but only what they can do for themselves.

Check out an excerpt of what Milbank has to say in his opinion piece at the Washington Post.

For one thing, the Republicans are, if anything, in a reverse-“Braveheart” position: In this fight, they are the nobles putting down the overtaxed peasants. For another, the Scots they are emulating were defeated and slaughtered, and Wallace was captured (possibly betrayed by his own side), then drawn and quartered.


That the House Republicans would embrace a doomed cause and its martyred leader gets at their main problem in the majority: They’d rather make a point than govern the country. And in this case, it’s not entirely clear what point they’re trying to make.

Is it making sure the tax cut is paid for? For the last decade, Republicans approved billions of dollars in tax cuts, mostly for the rich, without paying for them.


Is it because they want the tax-cut extension to be for a year rather than just two months, as the Senate approved? Then why did so many Republicans originally criticize any tax-cut extension?

In killing the Senate compromise, which passed 89 to 10, with 39 Republican votes, the House GOP resorted to a variant of the “deem and pass” resolution they derided when Democrats proposed it during the health-care fight. Reneging on their pledge to hold a vote on the Senate compromise, Braveheart Republican leaders ordered up a resolution that rejected the Senate measure without a direct vote.


Caucus chairman Jeb Hensarling (Tex.), demanding a conference between the House and Senate to resolve differences, instructed his colleagues to “go and watch ‘Schoolhouse Rock’ ” to see how “things are settled between the House and Senate.” But this ignored the fact that Senate Democrats had already compromised with Senate Republicans; Hensarling was asking them to compromise on their compromise.

Read the entire opinion piece at the Washington Post.