The Helpless Majority
By Dick Morris and Eileen McGann
FrontPageMagazine.com | November 29, 2006
For all of the dire warnings and pre-election commotion about the impact of a Democratic majority in Congress, the fact is that – now that it is upon us – it can do little or nothing but harass the administration.
There is no real danger of any legislative action emerging from this Congress. Yes, the president has a veto the Democrats cannot override, but nothing will ever make it as far as the desk at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., are just spinning their wheels.
In the Senate, there is no such thing as a majority. Ever since the elder Bush’s administration, the filibuster has become routine. No longer reserved for civil-rights issues or for egregious legislation, it now is used to counter even motions for recess and adjournment. Members of the Senate are no longer subjected to the indignity of standing on their feet and reading a telephone book. Rather, the gentlemen’s filibuster applies.
The majority leader phones the minority leader and asks if a filibuster is in effect. With his feet up on his desk, the Republican replies that it is and the Democrat, despite his majority, does not even think about bringing up his bill for consideration unless he has a good shot at the 60 votes required to shut off debate. In the Senate, 51 votes determine who gets the corner office, but to pass legislation, one needs 60.
In the House of Representatives, with its 435 members, the Republican Party needed a simple majority – 218 – to rule. The Democrats need considerably more. The normal rules of a mathematical majority do not take into account the fractious nature of the Democratic Party.
Where the Republican majority best resembled the Prussian Army – disciplined, unified and determined – the Democratic majority in the upcoming Congress is disunited, dispersed and divided into myriad caucuses and special interest groups. One could purchase the Republican majority wholesale by making a deal with the speaker and the majority leader. But to get the Democratic majority in line, one has to buy it retail — caucus by caucus.
First, one has to go to check with the Black Caucus — hat in hand — to see if one’s bill has enough liberal giveaways to round up its forty or so votes. Thence to the Hispanic Caucus for a similar screening. Then, with one’s legislation weighted down with liberal provisions added by these two groups, one has to sell it to the Democratic Leadership Council moderates and, even worse, to the Blue Dog Democrats — the out and out conservatives.
If you are fortunate enough to pass these contradictory litmus tests, you then have to go to the environmentalists, the labor people, and even the gays to see that your bill passes muster. Only then can you begin to hope for House passage.
The result of this labyrinth is that the relatively moderate bill you first sought to pass ends up like a Christmas tree, laden with ornaments added to appease each of the caucuses. Unrecognizable in its final form, it heads to House passage.
This road map will be familiar to all veterans of the Clinton White House of 1993 and 1994. The most recent administration that had to deal with a Democratic House, the shopping from caucus to caucus and the festooning of moderate legislation with all manner of amendments will seem dejÃ vu to all of the early Clintonites. When Clinton proposed an anti-crime bill with a federal death penalty, he needed to add pork projects in the inner city like midnight basketball to get it past the Democrats in the House.
Nancy Pelosi will face the same obstacle. By the time her legislation emerges from the lower chamber, it will bear little resemblance to what she had in mind, liberal as that might have been. As Clinton said, after he watched the mangling of his legislative program by the various caucuses in the House, “I didn’t even recognize myself.”
Once the highly amended liberal legislation emerges from the House, it will make easy fodder for a Senate filibuster. So left leaning that it stands no chance of attracting 60 votes, it will be dead-on-arrival.
So forget the nightmares about an amended Patriot Act or restrictions on wiretapping for homeland security. Don’t worry about House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel’s, D-N.Y., ravings about the draft or the rumors of a tax increase. It’s not going to happen.
What is the Democratic majority good for? One thing and one thing only – to give their party control of the committees and the subpoena power that goes with it. The two House Democratic majority can only make noise and make trouble. It can’t pass legislation.
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