Can Dems regroup from failures?

Congressional Democrats will have plenty to ponder during the Christmas-New Year recess. For instance, why did things go so badly this fall, and how well did their leaders serve them?

Partisan players will quarrel for months, but objective analysts say the debate must start here: An embattled president made extraordinary use of his veto power and he was backed by GOP lawmakers who may have put their political fortunes at risk.

Also, a new Democratic leadership team overestimated the impact of the Iraq war and the 2006 elections, learning too late they had no tools to force Bush and his allies to compromise on bitterly contested issues.

Both parties seem convinced that voters will reward them 11 months from now. And they agree that Congress’ gridlock and frustration are likely to continue until then ā€” and possibly beyond ā€” unless the narrow party margins in the House and Senate change appreciably.

In a string of setbacks last week, Democratic leaders in Congress yielded to Bush and his GOP allies on Iraqi war funding, tax and health policies, energy policy and spending decisions affecting billions of dollars throughout the government.

The concessions stunned many House and Senate Democrats, who saw the 2006 elections as a mandate to redirect the war and Bush’s domestic priorities. Instead, they found his goals unchanged and his clout barely diminished.

Facing a Democratic-run Congress after six years of GOP control, Bush repeatedly turned to actual or threatened vetoes, which can be overridden only by highly elusive two-thirds majority votes in both congressional chambers.

Bush’s reliance on veto threats was so remarkable that “it’s hard to say there are precedents for it,” said Steve Hess, a George Washington University government professor whose federal experience began in the Eisenhower administration.

Previous presidents used veto threats more sparingly, Hess said, partly because they hoped to coax later concessions from an opposition-run Congress. But with the demise of major Bush initiatives such as revamping Social Security and immigration laws, Hess said, “you’ve got a president who doesn’t want anything” in his final year.

Bush’s scorched-earth strategy may prove riskier for Republicans who backed him, Hess said. Signs point to likely Democratic victories in the presidential and many congressional races next year, he said.

That is the keen hope of Congress’ Democratic leaders, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. They have admitted that Bush’s intransigence on the war surprised them, as did the unbroken loyalty shown to him by most House and Senate Republicans.

Empowered by Bush’s veto threats, Republican lawmakers rejected Democratic efforts to wind down the war, impose taxes on the wealthy to offset middle-class tax cuts, roll back tax breaks on oil companies to help promote renewable energy and conservation, and greatly expand federal health care for children.

Pelosi on Friday cited “reckless opposition from the president and Republicans in Congress” in defending her party’s modest achievements.

Americans remain mostly against the war, though increasingly pleased with recent reductions in violence and casualties, an AP-Ipsos poll showed earlier this month. While a steady six in 10 have long said the 2003 invasion was a mistake, the public is now about evenly split over whether the U.S. is making progress in Iraq.

Opposition to the war is especially strong among the Democratic Party’s liberal base. Some lawmakers say Pelosi and Reid should have told those liberal activists to accept more modest changes in Iraq, tax policies and spending, in the name of political reality.

“They never learned to accept the art of the possible,” said Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., a former majority leader who is partisan but willing to work with Democrats. “They kept going right up to the limit and exceeding it, making it possible for us to defeat them, over and over again,” Lott said in an interview.

He cited the Democrats’ failed efforts to add billions of dollars to the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which Bush vetoed twice because of the proposed scope and cost. A somewhat smaller increase was possible, Lott said, but Democrats refused to negotiate with moderate Republicans until it was too late.

“They thought, ‘We’re going to win on the politics, we’ll stick it to Bush,”‘ Lott said. “That’s not the way things happen around here.”

Some Democrats say House GOP leaders would have killed any bid to forge a veto-proof margin on the children’s health bill. But others say the effort was clumsily handled in the House, where key Democrats at first ignored, and later selectively engaged, rank-and-file Republicans whose support they needed.

Some Washington veterans say Democrats, especially in the ostentatiously polite Senate, must fight more viciously if they hope to turn public opinion against GOP obstruction tactics. With Democrats holding or controlling 51 of the 100 seats, Republicans repeatedly thwart their initiatives by threatening filibusters, which require 60 votes to overcome.

Democrats should force Republicans into all-day and all-night sessions for a week or two, said Norm Ornstein, a congressional scholar for the right-of-center think tank American Enterprise Institute. The tactic wouldn’t change senators’ votes, he said, but it might build public awareness and resentment of GOP obstructionists in a way that a one-night talkfest cannot.

To date, Reid has resisted such ideas, which would anger and inconvenience some Democratic senators as well as Republicans.


  1. Steve Horn

    Can they regroup? Sure! Will they regroup? Doubtful. They’ll continue to do as they’ve done in the past – blow a lot of hot air stating their objections and then give Bush exactly what he wants. As a group they are the most worthless bunch of do-nothings I can imagine.



  2. mary cali

    Although I am under inpressed by the Dem leadership, they are up against the president, his veto pen, and the enabling, goosestepping Republicans in congress. The Rs have the chutzpah to block legislation and then claim the Dem congress isn’t doing anything. The obstructionism of the Rs needs to be repeated over and over in the upcoming election.

    The post by Steve reveals that the Republican strategy is working for the GOP-Genuises of Propaganda. Too many continue to fall for the GOP’s outstanding propaganda and marketing bag of tricks.

  3. Steve Horn


    I’m not being taken in by the Republican strategy and dirty tricks, I’m being realistic based on the Democratic performance since they took control of congress.

    Time and again they’ve caved to the “demands” of George W. Bush, giving him exactly what he asks for rather than standing their ground and working to change the course of this nation.

    Their lack of conviction was clear from the day that Pelosi stated that impeachment was off the table. They want to make you THINK that they’re interested in change when, in fact, they are interested in the status quo and increasing their own, personal power.

    I’m not a victim of Republican propaganda (which would have made Himmler and Goebbels proud), I (and the rest of the world) have fallen victim to the administration and the supporting cast of congress.



  4. AustinRanter

    Politicians Fail?…………

    Surely there is a total state of confusion here. Whether we’re speaking of Democrats or Republicans…THEY CAN’T FAIL.

    “We The People” have given these assh*l*s the power to be exempt from failure.

  5. SEAL

    You nailed it AustinRanter. It all comes back to “we the people.” Whatever our government does or doesn’t do is allowed by us. We vote them into office and then spend the next two, four, or six years bitching about them. The next election – repeat. I have watched his senario repeat itself ever since WWII and it will continue until we the people harass the hell out of those we elect with threats of our votes. If you want good government you have to get involved.

    The reason we have so many of these bills that give our money to corporations for programs and wars and so forth we do not agree with is because we don’t raise our voices loud and clear and often. We sit silent and allow organizations like the religious right that make the kind of effort and noise to get their idotic moral laws passed. We have no one to blame but ourselves.

    The current democratic majority is both incompetent and corrupt. Compare them to the republicans when they were the majority. They were the most corrupt congress in modern history but their leadership was organized and smart. They knew how to get what they wanted. They made the deals that would cause enough of the opposition to vote their way. They stuck together no matter what, just as they are doing now. They know how to win.

    Nancy Pelousy is absolutely the worst person the dems could have made leader of the House. Even if she wasn’t an old line totally corrupt politition and wanted to do the right things, she has no ability to do it. She is the typical political prop, the look good smiling sound bite utering do nothing office holder. She is obviously below average in intelligence. Why did they make her the Speaker? What has she ever done to distinguish herself? Speaker of the House is one of the most powerful positions in government. Third in line for he presidency. The dems should have installed the most dynamic member they had for that position. A proven leader.

    Her declaration that impeachment was off the table the day after the people put the dems in control of congress to stop Bush was sheer stupidity. Slapping the voters in the face was her first act. How could she not understand that the majorty of those who voted the dems in control wanted congress to give Bush an ultimatim and use the threat of impeachment. A great many just wanted him impeached, period, exlamation point! Bush had already committed numerous impeachable offenses. One, the wire tapping, he had publicly admited. The voters had just made a very loud and clear statement. WE want change! NOW! What they got from Nancy was a vow of cooperation with Bush just a few days after she had bashed the hell out of Bush, calling him a liar, etc., for months to entice the voters to put the dems in power. A complete turn around, telling the voters they had been suckered.

    Regardless of the dems intentions a smart politition would not have done such a thing. They would have been vowing to uphold the campaign promises. She is stupid. As it seems the vast majority of the dems in congress are. They are clearly disorganized. Divided into factions that cannot agree and make no attempt to work together. The leaders of both the House and Senate put forth a weak front of there is another bad thing the repubs did, lets have an investigation and hearings. Clearly, their only intent is to make the repubs look bad instead of doing what the voters elected them to do – stop Bush. They have had many opportunities to do just that and backed away each time, enabling Bush. Intimidated by being accused of not supporting the troops. That alone make them the most stupid collection of people on the planet. Cutting off the money for the war would be the most supportive thing they could do for the troops. OR. They do not want the war to end. Why? Because the all have income and job producing MIC facilities in their states. Some have relatives with a MIC business or some other MIC vested interest. That’s why.

  6. DejaVuAllOver

    That Democrats are pathetic, weak, cowardly, pompous blowhards is beyond question. That Republicans are evil, degenerate, hateful, vindictive, arrogant, largely pious lowlife is also a settled debate. The question is, as Dave Barry put it, IS….. ARE ALL AMERICANS DUMBER THAN CELERY???

    Let’s prove the WORLD (who thinks we ARE dumber than celery) wrong. Democrats, GET A CLUE. STAND UP. THIS FIGHT is going to be nasty. GET USED TO IT. Grow some cajones. We’re WAAYYYY beyond nice talk, miss NANCY-FANCY-I-CAN-DANCEY PELOUSY, you spineless loser. And the same goes for you, Mr. HARRY-FAIRY-QUITE-CONTRARY REID, you pathetic wimp. Send the Republicans to Hell, where they belong. For good.

    But being the pathetic zeros that you are, I’m not holding my breath. And If you LOSE the fight, fine. But you’re so pathetic you give up before you’re even in the ring.

    I for one, expected a LOT more.

    Real leaders MAKE opinion, and are not merely slaves to “focus groups”, “opinion polls” and the like. They are eloquent, well informed and decent people. They CHANGE the status quo and are not SLAVES to it. Like Churchill or FDR. They are NOT followers, like you. Losers like you are concubines to momentary perceptions and as such are ALWAYS followers, not leaders. Do your JOBS, or go to Hell. Thank you very much.

  7. Sandra Price

    Wild comments! I’m in a state of shock that the GOP has fallen into total corruption. They wanted a one world order empire and they nearly got their dream leader and the GOP fell in line out of habit. Actually, it woke me up way too late. I had no idea that the GOP would change their agenda and platform so quickly. The one thing it did prove to me was to never trust a born again Christian with our Constitution. It is one of the reasons I cannot ever vote for those awful men the GOP has chosen to run.

    I still will add a vote for Ron Paul in February here in Arizona and then register back to being an Independent. The most dangerous persons running are the Huckabee, Romney, Hunter, Tancredo homophobes chosen by the religious right to make the final changes in our American laws.

    2008 will be our last chance at individual freedoms.