|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.
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.