The timing is bad, that’s for sure, with Christmas and Hanukah coming up.
But Lame Duck Sessions happen when they happen.
WASHINGTON — President Obama on Monday announced a two-year pay freeze for civilian federal workers as he sought to address concerns over high annual deficits and appealed to Republicans to find a common approach to restoring the nation’s economic and fiscal health.
I gather that the general assumption on the progressive side of the bandwidth is that this is another case of the President pre-emptively surrendering to the Republicans in the hopes that another show of weakness will soften their stony hearts and open them up to realizing the dream of bipartisanship for bipartisanship’s sake.
I don’t know. I have a hard time believing the President is an idiot.
I don’t think he’s surrendering to the Republicans. My bet is he’s surrendering to Evan Bayh.
Or Ben Nelson.
Or Blanche Lincoln.
Or Bryon Dorgan.
Or Joe Lieberman.
Or maybe it’s one or more of the other conservative and corporate friendly Democrats. Max Baucus, Mary Landrieu, Bill Nelson, Mark Pryor, and, apparently depending on their moods, Claire McCaskill and Jay Rockefeller.
There are Republicans the President and the Democrats need to win over in order to get any of the things that need to get done before the session ends passed---passing the DREAM act, extending the tax cuts for the middle class, repealing DADT, ratifying START---none of this makes it through the Senate unless Harry Reid can break the inevitable Republican filibusters and to do that he needs at least one Republican to vote to get himself or herself primary-ed by the Tea Partiers.
So maybe this isn’t a surrender to the Republicans as much as it’s a cover for Snowe, Collins, or Brown.
But this assumes that all those Democrats named above are on board, and that’s not something that can be assumed.
It only takes one of them breaking ranks to gum up the works, and Bayh, Ben Nelson, Lincoln, Dorgan, and Lieberman have done that before or threatened to.
Ben Nelson has been exceptionally difficult.
Landrieu and Bill Nelson have caused trouble too, and I suspect Baucus has raised objections that amounted to threats behind closed doors.
Remember, Baucus, who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, making him one of the the most powerful members of Congress, helped make a mess of the Health Care Debate with his endless and futile Gang of Six negotiations and, if I recall correctly, had as much to do with limiting the size of the stimulus as Larry Summers.
Whenever anybody asks where all the responsible, grown-up Republicans have gone, the answer ought to be, “Into the Democratic Party.”
I used to see it noted regularly that the Democrats have not had a Progressive majority in either house since they took over in 2006. This seems to have been forgotten over the last year and a half.
Effectively, the President has had to deal with a conservative majority and, if you look at it realistically---or charitably, depending---he and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have been pretty successful in getting so many conservatives to break ranks so many times.
The downside to this has been the things that have looked “Republican” if not out and out Right Wing to many Progressives.
These things, of course, have not looked Republican to most Republicans.
The corporate friendly features we call Republican are in fact conservative and they’re there because the President has compromised with the conservatives in his own party in order to get them to compromise back by voting for the liberal and more or less liberal features we like or at least find acceptable or are resigned to living with as the best we can hope for, for now.
If you can read the President’s mind then you know how compromised he’s felt by these compromises.
I can’t read his mind, but the circumstantial evidence is piling up against him.
The point is that it’s not the Republicans who’ve been pushing him around.
The President took office with 56 Democratic Senators and Bernie Sanders. Arlen Specter was still a Republican, Al Franken was far from a certain winner, and Joe Lieberman was Joe Lieberman. He started the job without the 60 votes need for cloture and there was good reason to think that he wouldn’t have them for at least two years. What did he plan to do? What did Harry Reid plan to do?
Apparently, they had no plan for dealing with Republican obstructionism except to appeal to the consciences of Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and George Voinovich and then trick Judd Gregg into giving up his Senate seat for the job of Secretary of Commerce and then have the Democratic governor of New Hampshire appoint his replacement.
In short, the plan, as much as it was a plan, was to always to depend on a supermajority to pass the most important pieces of legislation, and once that became the plan each single conservative Democrat became a little king or queen who had to be courted and placated and otherwise kowtowed to.
I’m not sure what should have been the plan.
The rule changes that would have helped needed the support of the conservative Democrats who would have been voting to give up all that power.
The only other suggestions I’ve ever heard were along the lines of “The President needs to get tougher” but the suggestions didn’t include any specific ideas on what getting tougher would mean.
I’m not a fan of Harry Reid as majority leader. I think Chuck Schumer could do a better job of putting the fear of God into people.
But that’s something I think, not something I know, and I have no idea how he would go about scaring the likes of Max Baucus or Bill Nelson or Jay Rockefeller.
What was needed was a brilliant persuader and deal-maker, someone who could convince conservative colleagues, even colleagues as conservative as Orrin Hatch, that on this particular issue or that, they were more of a closet liberal than they themselves had ever suspected.
More and more, I’m convinced that losing Ted Kennedy was a bigger blow than we yet know.
I’d like to have seen what Ted would have done with the miserable specimen that is Evan Bayh.
Over at TPM, Brian Beutler says that just about everybody hates the pay freeze, except Republicans.
But I’m not so sure.
Evan Bayh thinks “Democrats should support a freeze on federal hiring and pay increases. Government isn’t a privileged class and cannot be immune to the times.”
That sounds awful familiar.
This is why I think that when the history of Obama’s first term is written, the focus won’t be as much on his failure to thwart the Republicans, because, after all, they were pretty much thwarted. Unthwarted Republicans would have defeated the Affordable Care Act entirely, the auto industry bailout, any regulation of Wall Street and the banks and the credit card industry, all the emergency spending programs.
The focus will be on the President’s dealings with conservative Democrats.
Wherever the Republicans weren’t thwarted, it was because a Democrat refused to help break a filibuster.
Come January, Bayh, along with Dorgan and Lincoln and Specter will be gone, and good riddance. But so will Russ Feingold. And Illinois will have a Republican Senator and we didn’t pick up Ohio or New Hampshire or Missouri which was at one time a realistic hope.
There’s no chance for supermajority.
Not that it’ll matter with the Republicans in control of the House.
So now what’s the plan?
Two years of thwarting Republican attempts to undo whatever good that’s been done?
Two years of tinkering with the budget in order to bring down the deficit to make room for whatever spending conservative Democrats and hypocritical Republicans who never met a spending program they didn’t like in their own districts will allow?
Two years of focusing on foreign policy?
Two years of hoping the economy improves enough that the President will be re-elected with long enough coattails to hold the Senate majority and win back the House?
And two frantic weeks of wheeling and dealing to keep the conservatives happy so they’ll cooperate in getting the last bits of President’s agenda passed.
That’s all I got. What about you?
It’s the Democrats, again. Updated in frustration: Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor are on the wrong side on repealing DADT. Correct that. Lincoln won’t say which side she’s on but seems to think she can get credit for being on both. Via Greg Sargent.