Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Democrat wish list is complete

Speculation has abounded as to what Democrats would do if, by some Biblical miracle, they take the White House and expand majorities in both Houses of Congress. The Hill has the skinny and it doesn't look pretty. HT to Captain Ed

A landslide victory next Tuesday would give Barack Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape government policy dramatically.

By controlling the White House and expanding their Senate majority, Democrats would remove the most reliable weapons used by the GOP to block their agenda: the filibuster and the veto.

Those tools have thwarted Pelosi (Calif.) and Democrats since they won the majority in both chambers, leaving bills affecting labor law, healthcare and other issues to die in the Senate or on the president’s desk.

With those obstacles removed, Democrats could quickly push forward with legislation allowing labor unions to organize without secret-ballot elections and a bill expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

Other possibilities include the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which would overturn a Supreme Court decision restricting equal pay lawsuits; a measure that would narrow the role of a “supervisor” for collective bargaining purposes; and a mandate for paid sick leave for companies with 15 or more employees who work at least 30 hours a week — all left over from the last Congress.

“I think they want to strike while the iron’s hot and grab everything they can,” said Marc Freedman, director of labor law policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain has picked up on this theme in the final week of the election, calling Pelosi, Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) a “dangerous threesome” in a last-minute attempt to win back momentum. But with six days left before the election and Obama leading in key states, most indicators point to a federal government completely in Democratic hands.

Having the numbers to move legislation on a partisan basis carries risk. Democrats and Obama, if elected, would shoulder the blame for anything that passes. That reality could prompt leadership to postpone visceral debates on issues with greater political consequences, such as dealing with illegal immigrants.

Democrats also are divided among themselves on some issues, including energy policy, where opinions are often parochial and have less to do with party affiliation. Complicating the equation further will be the overall economic environment. If the country is in recession, both parties are likely to be wary of being accused of raising the price of energy.

“At the end of the day, you still have to go home and turn the lights on,” said Martin Edwards, a lobbyist for the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America.

A certain starting point for Democrats will be the financial crisis, and a stimulus package could be taken up as early as the November lame-duck session. A landslide win will boost the likelihood that bill will lean heavily toward spending on infrastructure, money for cities and states, an extension of unemployment insurance and additional money for food stamps.

“They are going to be focused on turning around the economy and anything that contributes to that,” said Bill Samuel, legislative director for the AFL-CIO. “A pro-jobs agenda.”

Business leaders are anticipating an early push of union-backed bills. At the top of the list is the so-called Employee Free Choice Act, which would eliminate the right of employers to demand secret-ballot elections before a union can be certified. Instead, a majority of workers could sign petition cards certifying a union — a process known as “card-check.” The bill passed the House in March 2007, but failed three months later in the Senate to get the 60 votes required for controversial legislation.

Healthcare is another ripe topic, and some expect a vote as early as January on SCHIP expansion. Bush twice vetoed legislation in 2007 that would have expanded the program by $35 billion — enough to cover 10 million children. The party opted instead for a 15-month extension that expires on March 31.

Now what's the risk Democrats face? Simple. They'll be doing this on their own, and deliberately holding the bills back until Obama is inaugurated. When these items do get passed, and they fail they'll be the ones catching the flak. They won't be able to blame Bush or Republicans. They'll be out on a limb,and working without a net. In short, a rush to pass the sort of legislation they're proposing could lead them to electoral disaster in 2010. We wouldn't get rid of Obama, but the rush to ram these bills through could cost the Democrats their majorities in the Congress the same way it cost them in 1994.

If we go back to Clinton, we see that his tax hike, the passing of the Brady Bill, and the attempt to jam-down the Hillary health care plan cost him his majority in the House. The GOP Revolution of 1994, led by Newt Gingrich, was a watershed moment in American politics. The news networks and pundits didn't believe the landslide that year. In fact I recall the funny moment where James Carville ended up wearing a trash can on his head because his predictions fell through in the 2002 midterms. Both the '94 and the '02 midterms were surprises for pundits. In '94 no one believed the Republicans could take the House. In 2002, pundits believed the "selected not elected" meme pushed for two years would lead to greater Democrat gains in both Houses. Neither one panned out.

That is what the Democrats risk if they jump the gun -- correction, they jump the shark -- and push these things through the Congress. Even if they wait until the inauguration and ram this crap through, they risk the ire of the public when these ideas go south. Card Check is one thing in particular that will hurt the Democrats severely if they pass it. Union bosses have wanted to remove the secret ballots for the better part of a year so they could use intimidation tactics on union members. They pass this, and this is going to backfire on them badly.

To keep them from moving forward on this we need to work to ensure we keep the numbers tight. Gary Andres at the Weekly Standard's blog shows that while the Democrats are pushing for that sixty seat, filibuster-proof majority, that road isn't an easy one. He cites polls for heavily contested Republican seats, and the fact we might lose seats. I have stated that I see us losing no more than 4-5 seats. Four seats would be fine, but when it starts to inch up from there, we run the risk of RINOS such as Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and Arlen Spector jumping ship to side with the Democrats. The filibuster is our key tool in the Senate, and not only is it integral for legislation, but it is a priority when it comes to federal judge appointments. (Yes, I railed about the use of the filibuster during the Democrat's continued fight against President Bush's nominees, but McCain preserved it with the Gang of 14 deal. So the tactic is fair game for any "controversial" nominations.)

The Democrats are counting their chickens before they hatch, and if they push these legislative ideas, they run the risk of losing their majorities. We believe that with that in mind, it might give them a moment of pause. On the other hand, we never gave them much credit when it comes to political strategy. Harry Reid has been outfoxed by Mitch McConnell before; Boehner has befuddled Pelosi. That's the sort of leadership we need to maintain in both Houses, but that leadership is moot if we lose a significant number of seats. Neither of us see that happening, but we're not prophets. We don't "see" the future. We can only read the teal leaves, and give an assessment based on what we see.

Publius II


Blogger RoadWarrior99 said...

if this really happens and the liberal illuminati have full control will America look even remotely familiar in 4 years? i don't think it will.

October 30, 2008 at 1:59 PM  

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