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Speaker Pelosi, Fait Accompli?

May
9
2006

Voters won’t go to the polls until November, but for folks in Washington, it’s a fait accompli that Congress will change hands after the midterm elections. But even as it seems inevitable, it is by no means clear that Washington is prepared for a political tectonic shift.

Republicans, like Senator John Kyl, slowly see the power of the majority slipping through their fingers, and are talking “compromise” on issues like the estate tax for the first time in years as their political capital wanes.

Democrats are reviewing their caucus rules to make sure they can avoid internal turmoil should they win in November.

In response, Republicans seem more eager to tie the hands of lawmakers when it comes to lobbying reform, and new, onerous disclosure requirements which would be applied not only to earmarks, but to tax changes and program authorizations.

Sensing the winds of change in Washington, Congressional Democrats are laying out an “agenda” for the first time in a decade. They’re proposing to raise the minimum wage, expand Medicare liabilities by changing the prescription drug benefit, end deficit spending—presumably by raising taxes—and put Newt Gingrich to shame with the vigor by which they propose to investigate the Bush Administration.

But before they put those measures into effect, let along on the Congressional calendar, Democrats will actually have to win in November. To do that, they must, in turn, take out moderate Republicans such as Senator Lincoln Chafee and Representatives Christopher Shays and Nancy Johnson. Which might be very bad news for all of us; if you thought Washington politics was divisive now, imagine what how it will be when there are no Republican moderates.

The writing on the wall may be getting clearer for the Republican Congress but it what remains to be seen is when and whether either Party will prepare to govern in the 110th Congress.

Will Republicans in Congress reach across the aisle to get an energy bill passed? Will Senate Democrats realize that in order to pass any legislation, they’ll need nearly ten Republicans to vote with them on just about anything they want to send to the White House?

Perhaps the best test of how Democrats might govern in the Senate is – you guessed it – their ability to shepherd immigration reform through the upper house. With Republicans divided, Senate Democrats are in the driver’s seat on immigration reform. So far, they’ve proven ineffective and obstructionist…but if something is going to happen, it will be because Harry Reid et al found ten or twenty Republicans to get along with whatever compromise they put together.

Luckily for American voters, we’ll have a chance to see what the next two years will be live before we’re forced to validate the “inevitable” change of power on Capitol Hill down the street at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Share  Posted by Scott Olin Schmidt at 10:52 AM | Permalink

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