In spite of continued appeals to bipartisanship, the White House finally seems realize that congressional Republicans aren’t interested in compromise. Its new strategy: making a campaign issue of what the Democrats claim is Republic intransigence.
The opposition has attempted to block major policy initiatives in both houses of Congress throughout the past year while certain Republican senators long filibustered all administration nominees for high office. Indeed, Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada is blamed for failing to get anything done in the Senate. After a year of fierce public debate, a health-care reform bill was finally passed but climate change and energy are still on the drawing boards.
Having apparently given up hope that a mere majority will suffice to enact such ambitious legislation, Democrats now intend to make Republicans vote for a series of modest bills which they expect will be popular with the voters. Republican lawmakers who persist in their opposition against supposedly moderate policies will be left to explain themselves to their constituency.
Reid, for instance, is set to offer a pared-down jobs bill in response to rising unemployment. Rather than budgeting so much as $154 billion for job creation, as was originally intended, Reid’s bill focuses mostly on tax provisions and will cost about $15 billion. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has already expressed her enthusiasm for the plan, stating on Friday that her members “look forward to reviewing” the package.
Administration officials as well as congressional staff members indicate that during the following weeks, the House will vote to lift the antitrust exemption for health insurance companies; enact measures to assist small businesses; extend unemployment benefits; and levy a fee on previously bailed out banks.
A resolution introduced last week by Representatives John Larson and Linda Sánchez of Connecticut and California respectively to block Social Security privatization might also be brought to a vote. The resolution, which has found over twenty co-sponsors, is exactly the sort of tough political vote that Democrats have rarely pushed their opposite numbers on since they won back Congress four years ago.
The strategy is not without risk though. There are congressional Democrats who question some of the policies to be voted on, the proposed Wall Street fee among them. And if the Republicans ever decide to resort to principle rather than satisfying themselves with scaremongering populism, they could well make a strong case against these anti-business measures.