Thursday, December 23, 2010

Obama and the lame duck Congress clean some clocks

Big finish, Mr. President.
Ka-POW!  President Obama and the 111th Congress finish the session with a rapid-fire string of successes that furthers his agenda and leaves Republican leadership, and most specifically the two top Republicans in the US Senate, bewildered and humiliated.

Liberals, progressives, and left-wingers (like me) were still pissing and moaning about this president's lack of fight, about his apparent willingness to knuckle under to right-wing bigots, while President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid went about dismantling their opposition in the Senate.

In the 6 weeks since the mid-term elections, the lame duck congress has racked up some huge wins for the Obama agenda:
  • Tax deal

    The president struck a compromise deal to extend the Bush tax cuts for top income Americans in order to win an extension of  Federal unemployment benefits and a payroll tax reduction.  This compromise infuriated a lot of us on the left, but when we see the other achievements that came as a result of the compromise, left-wing fury is mitigated (at least as far as I'm concerned).

  • "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal

    President Obama, with the help of Harry Reid, delivered on a campaign promise to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," allowing gay Americans to serve openly in the military.  He did this over the furious opposition of the supposed and fraudulent champion of the Armed Forces, Senator John McCain.  A big win for all Americans, but especially for my many dear friends and neighbors who are gay.

  • The New START treaty

    With the help of his friend and colleague, Republican Senator Richard Lugar (IN), the president netted 71 votes in the US Senate to win approval of the New START treaty with Russia.  Glory hallelujah!  The United States Senate has somehow managed to overcome its stupendous ignorance just long enough to do humanity a real service.  A fine solstice gift from the Great Whatever!  This vote, in particular, was a humiliating loss for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his top lieutenant, Senate Minority Whip John Kyl who had come out publicly against the treaty.  The Senate Republican caucus, for all its vaunted solidarity, fell apart.  Thirteen GOP Senators ignored their caucus leadership to vote with the president.

    (The thirteen Republican senators who voted for START, those Republicans who put country before party, are Lamar Alexander (TN), Bob Bennett (UT), Scott Brown (MA), Thad Chochran (MS), Susan Collins (ME), Bob Corker (TN), Judd Gregg (NH), Darrel Isakson (GA), Mike Johanns (NE), Dick Lugar (IN), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Olympia Snowe (ME), and George Voinovich (OH).  These Republican senators showed real integrity.  I offer my sincere gratitude to them all.)

  • Funding for 911 First Responders bill

    The president got a little help when advocates for the bill stormed the office of Senator Tom Coburn (OK) who was attempting to single-handedly kill the bill.  Coburn cowed in the face of the people's passion and folded up like an origami swan.

  • Food Safety legislation

    This bill enacts the most sweeping food safety regulations this country has seen in decades. 
All of these achievements (with the lone exception of the extension of top-bracket tax cuts) are unequivocally in the larger public interest.  But, from a political perspective, something even more portentous (or ominous from a right-wing perspective) is that President Obama was able to divide the normally lock-step Republican caucus and forge bipartisan coalitions.

Now, Mitch McConnell (who left Washington with a snarky "Wait'll next year" whine), has to wonder how much success he'll have with his new larger-but-still-in-the-minority caucus in the next Congress.

In the House, even though the GOP will have the majority in the 112th Congress, John Boehner will, I predict, be forced by the lack of solidarity within his party to cut deals with the ruthlessly competent Nancy Pelosi

The 112th Congress is going to be a very lively session.  If tea-baggers think they know outrage, wait until they see how easily Republicans cast aside all their petty, idiotic concerns in the face of political competence and popular appeal. 

Big wins, Mr. President.


Dan Binmore said...

I think the way Obama did this was by not having an Us vs Them agenda, or an ideological agenda. Obama has a very long list of things he would like to do and that list probably comes very close to what you (Dade) and I would like to see happen. However, he knows that there is a system in place and that many people disagree with him. In order to get somewhere you need to respect other people's opinions, negotiate in good faith, know that you aren't going to get everything you want, but try to get what you can.

I wish the US electorate as a whole would understand this and act accordingly.

I don't think it's a victory when anybody is humiliated, unless it is the Los Angeles Lakers.

Anonymous said...

Is ruthlessly competent a good thing?

Perry said...

You are more optimistic about the House of Representatives than I am, and I am more optimistic than many of the people whose opinions I respect. I hope you are right, but my fallback position is that President Obama can show up the Republicans for who they are when they refuse to compromise.

Dan Binmore said...


Ruthlessly competent for good is excellent.
Ruthlessly competent for evil is the greatest evil.
Good is exclusively defined by me and can be purchased for $13.69.

jeanne said...

No one gets something for nothing...
Is ruthlessly competent a good thing? Can be depending on who it is.....I think the way Obama did this was by inviting Bill Clinton to the white house.....I am not sure how I feel about that...I guess you work with what you have

Happy New Year Dade and Maty
Blessed Be Jeanne