‘Look what we’re up against’

House Republicans appear to have a special fondness for spending time on measures they know will fail. I’m not altogether sure why they’d bother — the Senate seems to know better — but for six months, the new GOP majority has enjoyed spinning its wheels on far-right measures that make them feel better about themselves.

This week, for example, the House Judiciary Committee debated and approved a measure to amend the U.S. Constitution to cap government spending at 18% of GDP. As a substantive matter, the idea is truly insane — it would require brutal cuts to everything the federal government does, force officials to slash Medicare and Social Security, and make it permanently impossible for federal officials to respond to economic downturns.

You probably didn’t hear much about this, though, because the proposed amendment is doomed to fail. Dana Milbank was nevertheless on hand for the committee vote, and had an interesting account of the proceedings.

When a congressional committee tries to rewrite the Constitution to include a proposal that would permanently end many of the federal government’s functions, you’d think it would be done with solemnity. Instead, the lawmakers handled it with their usual acrimony — and, on the Republican side, some laughter at the minority complaints.

The reference to “laughter” was literal. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) said the Republican plan represents “an assault on the middle class and the poor of this country” and an “orchestrated attack” on the weak — particularly children. This led Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Ted Poe (R-Tex.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) to literally laugh at Johnson’s concerns.

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) went so far as to argue that if Dems were really concerned about vulnerable children, they’d join him in opposing women’s reproductive rights.

But this is the part that got me.

[Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.)], for his part, said Johnson was preventing “an adult conversation.” He added: “I would like to have at least an intelligent discussion.”

“I’m sorry that I’m not enunciating myself clearly or intelligently,” Johnson replied, bitterly.

After that exchange, Lungren went over to a colleague on the Republican side and shared a laugh. “We’re having much too much fun here today,” he said privately. “With a dismissive look over at Johnson and his Democratic colleagues, Lungren added, “Look what we’re up against.”

And that’s infuriating. Dimwitted, right-wing lawmakers wasting their time (and our money) on a ridiculous constitutional amendment shouldn’t get to pretend they’re the bright ones in the room.

Look what we’re up against“? Lungren was openly mocking the only people in the room with their heads on straight.

Is there anything more annoying than not-terribly-bright politicians pretending to be intellectual heavyweights?

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.