Congress under Obama Administration has been productive. It just hasn’t been producing everything voters want…
Any Congress that passed all these items separately would be considered enormously productive. Instead, this Congress did it in one bill. Lawmakers then added to their record by expanding children’s health insurance and providing stiff oversight of the TARP funds allocated by the previous Congress. Other accomplishments included a law to allow the FDA to regulate tobacco, the largest land conservation law in nearly two decades, a credit card holders’ bill of rights and defense procurement reform.
The House, of course, did much more, including approving a historic cap-and-trade bill and sweeping financial regulatory changes. And both chambers passed their versions of a health-care overhaul. Financial regulation is working its way through the Senate, and even in this political environment it is on track for enactment in the first half of this year. It is likely that the package of job-creation programs the president showcased on Wednesday, most of which got through the House last year, will be signed into law early on as well.
Most of this has been accomplished without any support from Republicans in either the House or the Senate — an especially striking fact, since many of the initiatives of the New Deal and the Great Society, including Social Security and Medicare, attracted significant backing from the minority Republicans.
How did it happen? Democrats, perhaps recalling the disasters of 1994, when they failed to unite behind Bill Clinton’s agenda in the face of uniform GOP opposition, came together. Obama’s smoother beginning and stronger bonds with congressional leaders also helped.
But even with robust majorities, Democratic leaders deserve great credit for these achievements. Democratic ideologies stretch from the left-wing views of Bernie Sanders in the Senate and Maxine Waters in the House to the conservative approach of Ben Nelson in the Senate and Bobby Bright in the House, with every variation in between. Finding 219 votes for climate-change legislation in the House was nothing short of astonishing; getting all 60 Senate Democrats to support any version of major health-care reform, an equal feat. The White House strategy — applying pressure quietly while letting congressional leaders find ways to build coalitions — was critical.
Certainly, the quality of this legislative output is a matter of debate.
[…] If the midterm elections in November turn out to be more like 1994, when Democrats got hammered, than 1982, when Republicans suffered a less costly blow, the GOP will probably be emboldened to double down on its opposition to everything, trying to bring the Obama presidency to its knees on the way to 2012. That would mean real gridlock in the face of a serious crisis. Given the precarious coalitions in our otherwise dysfunctional politics, we could go quickly from one of the most productive Congresses in our lifetimes to the most obstructionist.
And voters would probably like that even less.
Voters need what they were promised was important to pass and they also need something for them directly. In Massachusetts, they don’t hate the health care plan, its just that the federal health care plan doesn’t offer anything for the Bay State which already has universal health care. Seniors don’t want anyone messing with their Medicare and yet they weren’t too hype on Medicare for all single payer health care.