The Democrat’s Dilemma

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posted on Apr, 5 2007 @ 02:22 PM
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Dilemma: How to play politics with the White House in 2007 and 2008 tactically well enough to gain another victory at the polls on November 4, 2008. To leave the impression with the voters that the Dems are "in charge" and can "get things done." Which might be at sharp variance with reality. But as Justin Oldham says, perception IS reality in politics.

It’s now 4 months 28 days (04/05) since the November election. The Dems did better in the House than pundits expected, winning 233 seats out of the 435 seats. Republicans lost 27 seats, down to 202. Out of 74.2 million votes nationwide, the Dems polled 39.3 million while the GOP received 34.9 million votes. (I apologize for not knowing the breakdown of the 5 House delegates who are getting expanded voting rights in the Pelosi House). The Dems were barely able to pass the Supplemental Funding Bill for the Iraq and Afghan Wars. 218 yea votes. The barest minimum.

In the Senate, the Dems did better than the pundits predicted. But not so well as to be comfortable. That takes 60 seats. In the prior Congress the GOP had 55 seats. The Dems managed a 51 to 49 split. Not so good for the Dems though. Sen. Johnson of South Dakota is out due to a stroke, and probably out for good. He can’t quit because the state’s Republican governor promised to appoint a Republican to fill the vacancy.

Senator Joe Lieberman of CT is now an Independent, but he votes with the Dems to organize the Senate, giving them a 50 to 49 majority. Senator Lieberman has a McCain-like stance on the Iraq War. He refuses to support the Dems policies against Pres. Bush's handling of the War.

Any tie vote in the Senate will be broken by VP Cheney which means a tie is a loss for the Dems. On the Supplemental Funding vote, Lieberman stayed with the Dems but forced them to change the language from the House bill which calls for troop withdrawal at a time certain, to an indefinite non-binding recommendation of a withdrawal.

Over the next 2 weeks, the two bills will be reconciled in a Conference Committee made up of equal numbers of members from each chamber. Probably 3 to 2, Dems to GOP, from the House and Senate, making 10 members total. The committee’s recommendation goes back to each chamber for a final up or down vote. Unless the Dems can persuade a GOP senator to either switch - unlikely - or not to vote - possible, then it is such that Lieberman still holds a veto in this instance.

Each of the 2 houses of Congress pose vastly different problems for the respective leadership, regardless of which party is in control. To begin with, senators run state-wide and have a much stronger political base to work from. Senators face issues more nearly resembling national issues. Senators have a lengthy 6 year term of office. Look at the super effort it took to get rid of Tom Daschle in 2004. It included a personal breach of senate ethics by Bill Frist who was the first Majority Leader to campaign against a sitting member.

House members OTOH, even if from gerrymandered districts and excluding those 1 member states, represent relatively compact and geographically if not politically homogenous populations. House members have short 2 years term in office. While this puts them “closer” to the people, it also means they have to divide their time between serving the country - they are Federal officeholders first - and “running” for re-election. Either job is a full-time job. The House has a very different constituency than senators. This means the House and Senate do not always agree easily on critical issues.

History’s most powerful speaker was 1903-1911's Missouri Republican Joe Cannon, popularly called “Mighty Joe” Cannon. He was the successor to 1890s Republican Thomas Reed, nicknamed “Czar” Reed. Speaker Cannon controlled the Rules Committee with an iron grip. He wrote the House rules. He personally appointed committee members and designated the chairmen. He would not permit a newly elected member to speak on the floor in his first year and then either wrote the speech or personally edited the first speech. OK, enough on that.

Gradually the general membership took back power that had accreted to the speakership. Dennis Hastert, with the co-operation of the Republican majority took back many powers, including the dubious “power” to deny the opposition the right to offer amendments on the floor on final passage. The first woman speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has pledged not to return to a Hastert speakership. It is not so much that she might not like to, tit for tat, or what goes around comes around, but it is a distinct disservice, an abuse of power, to the United States of America to deny half the people’s chosen representatives the opportunity to at least make a record even if it is certain they are about to lose a vote.

The Senate has been much more collegial over the 218 years under the current constitution. There have been lapses, the last Majority Leader, Bill Frist, threatened to change the Senate rule on cloture - to halt debate - in order to get his way over several of Bush43's judicial nominations.

Mr Frist valued those appointments more highly than a tradition that had been in the Senate rules first written in 1789. To be accurate, the rule had been changed in 1964 when the rule was changed from the original 2/3rds vote requirement to the current 3/5ths vote requirement (which are called “super majorities”). This change was essential to be able to pass civil rights laws over the filibusters of the Deep South senators.

So here we are in 2007. The House Dems got 218 votes. Out of 233. Not all of those are certain on every issue. It is the traditional function of the #3 House Whip to keep the members “in line.” That is James Clyburn of SC, while Steny Hoyer of MD is the Majority Leader, #2 to Nancy Pelosi. Harry Reid of NV is the Majority Leader, and managed to get 50 votes on the Supplemental bill. The senior post of President Pro Tem goes to long time Senator Robert Byrd of WV beginning his 9th term. Senator Durbin of IL is the Whip and Senator Schumer of NY is #3, the Chairman of the Democratic Campaign Committee.

Here’s my ideological breakdown of the US electorate. 5% Liberal, 10% Leaning Liberal, 15% Conservative, 30% Leaning Conservative, and 40% Moderate or Centrist. If this same breakdown holds with the 535 Members of Congress, then it stands to reason that the final product of both the House and Senate will be some kind of compromise all parties of widely differing views can live with. Sometimes Congress is referred to as the Article 1 branch, from the Constitution.

The president, OTOH, is one person. Once he determines on a course of action, he can implement it throughout the executive branch of government. This not only gives the office of president power, it also gives it the public appearance of coherent leadership which in turn inspires public confidence.

Our current president seems to be operating from a very limited background in foreign affairs and world history. He is less likely than most of his predecessors to change his mind in public. He tolerates no dissenters. He would speak to no one outside a too small clique of insiders, until the November 7 election forced him to take a new look at the Iraq War.

Now, he seems to be lost, first firing his Secretary of Defense, then rejecting the ISG Report that offered him a way out with potential disgrace to be shared with the Dems maybe but the ISG for sure. Then he moved his DNI - Negroponte - over to #2 at State, and replaced him with another old man, a retired Admiral, at DNI. Despite his claim to want to cooperate with the newly empowered Democrats, he has consulted on none of the changes. It is apparent his vision of co-operation differs from that of most people. It is now being watched daily what he will do with his long time friend and personal lawyer Alberto Gonzales, who as they say, has crapped in his own nest.

Some commentators say Bush43 has been marginalized. That the Congress will have to find ways to work around him. I doubt that can happen. I think Bush43 is a “hands-off” executive type. He actually thought FEMA was doing a good job in New Orleans when he complimented his appointee, “You’re doing a heck of a job, Brownie.” Hans Christen Andersen wrote it best, in “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Or worse, he reminds me of Mizaru, who covered his eyes, to see no evil, Kikazaru whose covered ears hear no evil and Iwazaru, who covered his mouth, to speak no evil. The 3 Japanese monkeys. As George Bush has said over and over, I AM THE DECIDER.

[edit on 4/5/2007 by donwhite]




posted on Apr, 5 2007 @ 02:26 PM
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I'll be honest with you. I don't honestly think that the Democrats can gain the white house in 2008. Obama is their most viable candidate, but most people don't know enough about him to vote for him in good conscience. Hilary?
I think her bid is a joke to be honest.





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