March 31st, 2010 Posted By Pat Dollard.
You know, the dudes actually facing re-election, unlike JoJo The Lying Retard Boy…
The president’s push to turn health care reform into a catalyst for the rest of his agenda is getting mixed early reactions on Capitol Hill, where Democratic leaders’ desire to take advantage of healthy majorities before the November elections must contend with lawmakers’ survival instincts.
White House aides told POLITICO earlier this week that an emboldened Barack Obama plans to parlay his win on health care into a crack down on Wall Street excesses, a rewrite of education and campaign finance laws and possibly a climate change bill — all before the fall’s midterms.
But aides and members, Republicans and Democrats alike, say that a Wall Street crackdown was coming — and progress on climate change, immigration and other contentious measures probably wasn’t — no matter what had happened with the health care bill.
“I don’t see it creating momentum,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who has negotiated across party lines on several significant issues in his first term.
The difference Corker detects on regulating Wall Street is not that the bill’s moving – that, he says, was inevitable – but that Obama is working to ensure it appeals to liberals.
“There may be more pressure from the administration than there was to keep it on the left,” Corker said. But other than that, he said, “I don’t think [health care] is going to affect other agenda items.”
Democrats on Capitol Hill differ as to whether – but mostly to what degree – putting health care reform on the scoreboard has given Obama more juice in Congress.
They uniformly say that swatting Wall Street is a political no-brainer that unifies their party and splits Republicans, and many of them are eager to pass anything that can be labeled a “jobs” bill to show voters that they are focused on reversing economic misfortune. Both offer the opportunity to cater to populist sentiment before the election — and to force the GOP to go along or risk public backlash.
“As we go forward, we will see if the Republicans are willing to reform Wall Street,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said last week. “Bipartisanship is nice but it cannot be a substitute for action. Not having it cannot prevent us from going forward. So, if they don’t want to regulate Wall Street, we do. And we will.”
But that’s the relatively easy part.
As Democrats approach what is expected to be a tough mid-term election, two cross-cutting dynamics are taking hold: Lawmakers who must battle to win re-election are even less inclined to cast tough votes, while some Democratic strategists believe the best bet for party leaders is to use big congressional majorities to enact their agenda before anticipated November losses set them back.
“The only thing we know for certain is we have the majority until the beginning of November 2010,” said one House Democratic aide. “Especially this year with how the political climate is – I don’t think we’ll lose the House, but there seems to be a sense of trying to get as much done when we can.”
Sarah Binder, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Brookings Institution, said that approach makes sense.
“If you’re going to use unified political party advantage … now is the time,” she said.
But as party leaders plot the course for the rest of the year, some fatigued Democrats in tough re-election races may yell “uncle” at the first sight of another controversial bill.
“If [Obama’s] saying he’s got the stride going and he’s on a winning streak and that was just the first of many things he thinks he can get through, I would actually say the opposite,” said the top aide to a member of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition. “That ship has sailed. That capital was expended on cap and trade first and health care second.”
The political ether is full of potentially poisonous issues for Democrats, including an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws and legislation aimed at addressing climate change.
Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have been working on an immigration bill, but Graham has been critical of Obama for not providing the muscle to back up declarations of support for an overhaul.
“At the end of the day, the president needs to step it up a little bit,” Graham told POLITICO earlier this month. “One line in the State of the Union is not going to do it.”
Obama said he would tackle immigration in 2010, but his win on the health care bill doesn’t appear to have done much to break the impasse.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs suggested on Tuesday that the GOP has to put more skin in the game before Obama will commit to moving forward.
“I think the president has been a strong advocate and proponent of immigration reform, understanding, again, this is — I get asked all the time about bipartisanship, about, well, you can’t just — you guys can’t just go this alone, right? Well, this is not an issue that’s going to be decided by just getting all the Democratic members to support immigration reform,” Gibbs said at a White House press briefing. “There has to be — there have to be Republicans that come aboard, too.”
A senior Senate Democratic aide told POLITICO this week that, when it comes to the legislative agenda between now and November, immigration and “a large energy push” are “the only two things that remain questions.”
The aide said financial regulatory reform, a ban on corporate campaign spending and a series of jobs bills would be the meat of the party’s agenda for the rest of the year.
But as polls on the health care law bounce around – the latest from USA/Today Gallup had 50 percent responding that it was a bad development – some Democrats say clearing the decks has given them an opportunity to deliver on other items.
Senior Democratic aides in the House say there may be movement toward energy legislation, whether it’s a comprehensive stab at addressing climate change or something significantly smaller.
“There’s still an opportunity to get a bunch of really big things done,” said one senior House Democratic aide.
Jake Sherman contributed to this report.