They Might Be Giants -- Or They Might Not Be
The Wall Street Journal's Gerald Seib laments "the absence on the front lines of four big personalities -- Rep. John Dingell, Sen. Ted Kennedy, former Sen. Tom Daschle and Sen. John McCain -- that helps explain why Congress and the Obama administration are having such a hard time getting something done."
You hear this occasionally. But I'm not convinced. Dingell, Kennedy, Daschle and McCain were all around in 1994, and there was no deal, nor anything close to it. Kennedy, Dingell and McCain were also around for the 2007 effort at comprehensive immigration reform. One of the main bills, in fact, was co-sponsored by Kennedy and McCain. But there was no deal, nor anything close to it.
I don't want to go so far as saying that legislators don't matter. Henry Waxman, for instance, has achieved much that would never have occurred in his absence. But they aren't miracle workers. There are essentially zero examples in recent years of a legislator's charisma or personal relationships convincing his colleagues to abandon partisan pressures or special interests or ideological commitments on a major bill. And maybe that's as it should be: It's not clear that being buddies with John Dingell is an excellent reason to vote to overhaul the U.S. health-care system.
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