Do Democrats have a plan?
The emerging strategy seeks to take advantage of the partisan stalemate in Congress over Obama's nominees and major policy initiatives, and to turn the page on a year when the White House failed to secure passage of complicated health-care and energy legislation.
The idea is to make Republicans either vote for a series of more modest bills identified as popular with the public or explain to constituents this fall why they opposed them.
The decision by Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) to offer a pared-down jobs-creation bill and dare the GOP to oppose it is the most visible sign of the plan so far. White House officials and congressional staff members say it will be followed in coming weeks by a House vote to lift the antitrust exemption for insurance companies, measures to assist small businesses and extend unemployment benefits, and a proposal to levy fees on Wall Street banks that received bailout money.
But no one has done a very good job defining what it means for this strategy to succeed. Does it mean Democrats pick up seats in the next election? Because that's unlikely to work: Historically, a bad economy and the odd politics of midterm elections (the president's party has gained seats three times since the Civil War) are simply much more powerful than the politics of any particular bills.
But the strategy could be aimed at other things: momentum in the eyes of the media and their base, or laying an education campaign about the costs of obstruction in the Senate that will help build understanding of the need to reform Senate procedures? Democrats may have a strategy, but they've not been terribly clear about its goals.
Photo credit: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters.
February 15, 2010; 10:54 AM ET
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