Monday, July 5, 2010

Obama Prepares to Back the Bus Over Blue Dogs After November Election


President Obama embarked on a what seemed to be an insane strategy last year. Shortly after passing the Stimulus, he had his minions on the Hill, Reid and Pelosi, launch full throttle into two of the most controversial legislative issues ever to face Congress. The House passed Cap-and-Trade climate change legislation in June of 2009. The Senate failed to take up the bill because of lack of support among many Midwest Democratic Senators. Undeterred, President Obama had Pelosi start the process of ramming Health Care Reform through the House. After much twisting of 'Blue Dog' Democrats arms, the House passed HCR in early November. A lot of haggling and some thinly veiled bribing ensued and the Senate passed Health Care Reform under reconciliation in March and the House quickly affirmed the bill.

This strategy appears to have been wildly successful. Why would anyone call it insane? The only reason President Obama and the Democratic leadership were able to accomplish this was their almost 80 vote majority in the House and filibuster-proof 60 vote(including 2 Independents) majority in the Senate. Since these bills had virtually no Republican support, moderate Democrats from districts or states that voted for McCain in 2008 or have a large number of Republican or Conservative voters were needed. These are the so called 'Blue Dog' Democrats. The 'Blue Dogs' were forced to repeatedly throw themselves on their swords to pass legislation that was often very unpopular in their districts or states. Consequently, many of them won't be returning to Washington next year. President Obama will lose his large majorities in both the Senate and House. He may even lose control of one or both of those bodies. President Obama threw 'Blue Dog' democrats and his future majorities under the bus to pass Cap-and-Trade and Health Care Reform.

The pain Blue Dogs suffered due to Cap-and-Trade seems to have been wasted because it is still stalled in the Senate. Health Care Reform passed, but if President Obama had been willing to work with Republicans, he could have passed a Health Care Reform bill without destroying the careers of many moderate Democrats. The general concept of HCR was very popular last summer. A version of Obamacare light could have easily passed with some Republican support.

As President Obama pressed ahead with his liberal agenda, the economy continued to head south. Team Obama told us unemployment would not go over 8% if the Stimulus wasn't passed. Unemployment actually approached 10% even with the Stimulus. Voters demanded Congress focus more on jobs. President Obama ignored this demand and pressed his controversial initiatives. Why did President Obama waste the careers of so many Democrats for a stalled climate change bill and Health Care Reform that could have been passed in a different version? President Obama has shown a lack of willingness to compromise his liberal ideology, but few think he is politically insane.

Obama's strategy only makes sense if his plan all along was to cost many of the 'Blue Dogs' their jobs. The stage has been set for Cap-and-Trade and President Obama is now setting the stage for Immigration Reform. How can so many moderate Democrats losing their seats help pass these controversial bills? There will be a large block of lame-duck 'Blue Dogs' in Congress after November 2, 2010. Getting their votes for these unpopular bills would be almost impossible if they knew they would have to face reelection again soon. Without that constrain, the Democratic leadership can appeal to their party loyalty and, with luck, get enough moderate Democrats in the House and Senate to pass Cap-and-Trade and Immigration Reform in a lame-duck session after the November election. Scott Brown's capture of the Kennedy Senate seat complicated the plan, but that could not have been foreseen last summer. After throwing 'Blue Dogs' under the bus the first time, President Obama now plans to back it up over their corpses.

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