This week’s Herald column: Congress exists

Senate Leader Harry Reid, President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner

It’s become kind of a theme of mine, so I build on this post and Jonathan Chait’s excellent New York Times article to reiterate it.

A clip:

Leading liberal bloggers and columnists, who have in many ways been more effective than the tea party at driving the narrative of Obama as weak and overly conciliatory, have almost uniformly given congressional Democrats a pass on stopping Obama from closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay, for instance, or holding terror suspects like Khalid Sheikh Mohamed to account in civilian trials. In both cases, Democrats, including progressive heroes like former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold, joined overwhelmingly with Republicans to kill Obama administration security policies.

A shorter way to put it: Congress exists. Though you often wouldn’t know that, to hear some of the louder voices of the libertarian left, like Glenn Greenwald, who Chait singles out as one of the leading magical thinkers. They seem to believe that all it takes is for the president to utter a few magic “fighting” words, and the single most obstructionist Republican caucus in modern memory will fall by the wayside.

It’s helpful to remember the actual — as opposed to the mythologized — history of the Obama administration, particularly as the president prepares to speak to the nation about the jobs crisis, and to propose his own solutions.

Whether he proposes small bore stuff like tax credits for small business hiring, or goes big with a giant infrastructure initiative (which wouldn’t be a bad idea), Obama’s speech will carry with it only two certainties. The first: that the ideas put forward will be opposed, tooth and nail, by congressional Republicans, and probably blocked, no matter what they are. And second: that the speech will be hammered by liberal columnists and influential left-wing blogs, which will almost certainly declare it to be not progressive enough.

What gets characterized as the “professional left” often argues that Obama squandered a two-year, 60-vote Senate majority when he came into office — a time during which he should have called the entire progressive agenda into being. And a cogent argument could be made that the president’s strategy of “leading from behind” on healthcare reform allowed the Senate Finance Committee to drag out the legislative process through the tortured summer of 2009, giving the tea party Republicans the space to launch an unprecedented ideological attack on his administration that has dragged on for three years.

It’s also fair to criticize this president for being a tactician first and a persuader only when he’s pushed. Yes, he shrank John Boehner’s $100 billion cuts promise to the tea party down to the size where you can drown it in a bathtub, and most Republican columnists got that Obama and Democrats won significant stimulus in exchange for extending the Bush tax cuts, but Obama and his team never made the case themselves.

But the magic 60 votes (required because Republicans led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell literally filibustered everything) only existed in reality for four months in 2009, between July of that year when Sen. Al Franken was finally sworn in after the disputed Minnesota Senate race and November 2009, when Republican Mark Kirk won Obama’s old Senate seat in Illinois. The rest of the time, 0bama faced a Senate stocked with 56 or 57 Democrats of varying ideological stripes, including Ben Nelson (D, Mutual of Omaha) and Connecticut independent (former Dem) Joe Lieberman, whose greatest delight was killing the public option in healthcare.

Read the whole thing here.

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2 Responses to This week’s Herald column: Congress exists

  1. bmull says:

    This is kind of a theme of mine too. Obama knew or should have known that the Senate Dem Caucus were not united, and should have made the most of what he had.

    PS Mark Kirk was elected in 2010.

  2. jacksmith says:


    ( )

    ( Gov. Peter Shumlin: Real Healthcare reform — )

    ( Health Care Budget Deficit Calculator — )

    ( Briefing: Dean Baker on Boosting the Economy by Saving Healthcare )


    As you all know. Had congress passed a single-payer or government-run robust Public Option CHOICE! available to everyone on day one, our economy and jobs would have taken off like a rocket. And still will. Single-payer would be best. But a government-run robust Public Option CHOICE! that can lead to a single-payer system is the least you can accept. It’s not about competing with for-profit healthcare and for-profit health insurance. It’s about replacing it with Universal Healthcare Assurance. Everyone knows this now.

    The message from the midterm elections was clear. The American people want real healthcare reform. They want that individual mandate requiring them to buy private health insurance abolished. And they want a government-run robust public option CHOICE! available to everyone on day one. And they want it now.

    They want Drug re-importation, and abolishment, or strong restrictions on patents for biologic and prescription drugs. And government controlled and negotiated drug and medical cost. They want back control of their healthcare system from the Medical Industrial Complex. And they want it NOW!


    For-profit health insurance is extremely unethical, and morally repugnant. It’s as morally repugnant as slavery was. And few if any decent Americans are going to allow them-self to be compelled to support such an unethical and immoral crime against humanity.

    This is a matter of National and Global security. There can be NO MORE EXCUSES.

    Further, we want that corrupt, undemocratic filibuster abolished. Whats the point of an election if one corrupt member of congress can block the will of the people, and any legislation the majority wants. And do it in secret. Give me a break people.

    Also, unemployment healthcare benefits are critically needed. But they should be provided through the Medicare program at cost, less the 65% government premium subsidy provided now to private for profit health insurance.

    Congress should stop wasting hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money on private for profit health insurance subsidies. Subsidies that cost the taxpayer 10x as much or more than Medicare does. Private for profit health insurance plans cost more. But provide dangerous and poorer quality patient care.



    This is what the American people are shouting at you. Both parties have just enough power now to do what the American people want. GET! IT! DONE! NOW!

    If congress does not abolish the individual mandate. And establish a government-run public option CHOICE! before the end of 2011. EVERY! member of congress up for reelection in 2012 will face strong progressive pro public option, and anti-individual mandate replacement candidates.

    Strong progressive pro “PUBLIC OPTION” CHOICE! and anti-individual mandate volunteer candidates should begin now. And start the process of replacing any and all members of congress that obstruct, or fail to add a government-run robust PUBLIC OPTION CHOICE! before the end of 2011.

    We need two or three very strong progressive volunteer candidates for every member of congress that will be up for reelection in 2012. You should be fully prepared to politically EVISCERATE EVERY INCUMBENT that fails or obstructs “THE PUBLIC OPTION”. And you should be willing to step aside and support the strongest pro “PUBLIC OPTION” candidate if the need arises.

    ASSUME CONGRESS WILL FAIL and SELLOUT again. So start preparing now to CUT THEIR POLITICAL THROATS. You can always step aside if they succeed. But only if they succeed. We didn’t have much time to prepare before these past midterm elections. So the American people had to use a political shotgun approach. But by 2012 you will have a scalpel.

    Congress could have passed a robust government-run public option during it’s lame duck session. They knew what the American people wanted. They already had several bills on record. And the house had already passed a public option. Departing members could have left with a truly great accomplishment. And the rest of you could have solidified your job before the 2012 elections.

    President Obama, you promised the American people a strong public option available to everyone. And the American people overwhelmingly supported you for it. Maybe it just wasn’t possible before. But it is now.

    Knock heads. Threaten people. Or do whatever you have to. We will support you. But get us that robust public option CHOICE! available to everyone on day one before the end of 2011. Or We The People Of The United States will make the past midterm election look like a cake walk in 2012. And it will include you.

    We still have a healthcare crisis in America. With hundreds of thousands dieing needlessly every year in America. And a for profit medical industrial complex that threatens the security and health of the entire world. They have already attacked the world with H1N1 killing thousands, and injuring millions. And more attacks are planned for profit, and to feed their greed.

    Spread the word people.

    Progressives, prepare the American peoples scalpels. It’s time to remove some politically diseased tissues.

    God Bless You my fellow human beings. I’m proud to be one of you. You did good.

    See you on the battle field.


    jacksmith – WorkingClass :-)

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