Jeb Golinkin July 31st, 2009 at 5:11 pm 6 Comments
At 9:55 am (EST) on September 11th, just after the second World Trade Center was struck, Jo Moore, former British press officer sent an email to her colleagues which read “It’s now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury. Councillors’ expenses?.” It is in her honor that I identify one story every Friday afternoon that our wonderful government tried (and failed) to bury.
The story Washington’s P.R. people will be working hardest to bury or bring to light (depending on which side of the aisle they are on) concerns what won’t be done at the end of this last day heading into the Congressional recess. President Obama made it very clear from day one that he had three major legislative priorities, all of which he publicly pushed lawmakers to complete prior to Congress’ August recess. He wanted to pass an effective stimulus bill, he wanted to pass cap-and-trade legislation, and he wanted to pass comprehensive healthcare reform.
The Democratic dominated Congress failed the President. The House and Senate did manage to come together and pass the $787 billion dollar omnibus stimulus package, however the effects of the little stimulus money that has been spent thus far have been minimal and the president has already begun hearing calls from within his own party for a “second” (it would really be a third stimulus package… but whose counting anyway?) stimulus. But let’s generously call the stimulus a “victory” for President Obama. The economy is showing signs of life (although unemployment remains high… and will continue to grow even as the economy emerges from its slumber since unemployment is a lagging indicator). The economy didn’t collapse and without the stimulus it may well have. So we will say that this makes Obama one for one on major promises.
His second priority was comprehensive cap-and-trade legislation to curb carbon output. Congress hardly provided the president with what he was looking for. The House bill, Waxman-Markey, is an incredibly diluted bill. For example, the president was insistent that carbon credits be auctioned off, yet the House bill gives them away for free. The bill barely got past the House (219-212) despite the Democrats considerable numbers advantage. The Senate not only will not vote on the bill before recess, but many experts wonder whether the bill can get past the Senate at all. So Obama is now one for two.
Finally, the Obama Administration talked and talked and talked about comprehensive healthcare reform and how it “could not wait.” Obama continuously insisted that Congress pass healthcare reform before the August hiatus, however it was not to be. The House has a proposal ready, however not only are Republican members of the House unhappy, the powerful coalition of Blue Dog Democrats, without whom the bill cannot pass without any Republican votes, have essentially said that unless amended, they won’t vote for the bill. Nancy Pelosi and Rahm Emanuel wanted a vote before this afternoon, but they will not get it.
The Senate, the more deliberative and bipartisan (and intelligent) of the two chambers of Congress, has also moved slowly. Two healthcare bills are eventually expected to emerge from committee, one primarily authored by Senator Ted Kennedy, and the other (and more important of the two) by Senator Max Baucus. Baucus has refused to move forward without bipartisan support, and more work will be needed after the recess before anything is ready. In other words, no health bill before the August deadline and now the media and Republicans have an entire month to take shots at Democratic plans. Thus healthcare is also, at least so far, a loss for the president. One for three.
With the stimulus bill being second guessed, the cap-and-trade bill facing defeat, and healthcare reform in limbo, the president has found out the hard way that the legislative process does not lend itself to campaign promises. The president may yet emerge victorious on healthcare and time may vindicate him on the stimulus bill (he will almost certainly lose the battle in the Senate on cap-and-trade) but at least for the next month, Democratic lawmakers and the Obama administration will be desperately trying to change the narrative to focus on anything but those deadlines that they failed to meet.