"Blown Deadline, Blown Chance?" asks a Politico headline. Harry Reid's move "confirmed the growing consensus on Capitol Hill that the White House's fast-track approach has failed," the Washington Post says. But while it may be clear Obama's tactics have not worked so far, it's much less clear that this delay actually hurts the reform effort's long-term prospects, rather than helps.
At FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver writes that the timeout is "about as likely to do the Democrats some good as some harm." Why? Because "the media environment has become very treacherous," with the press "piling on" Obama and overly fixated on the idea of momentum. And, Silver adds, because there are a few positive economic signs (like the Dow topping 9,000 Thursday) that could prompt "a lot of quite optimistic chatter about the end of the recession" by the time Congress reconvenes in September.
To Silver's thesis, add this: The House and Senate not passing reform before recess means Democratic lawmakers won't have to go home and defend potentially flawed bills that may not even resemble the final package. No bill means no opportunity for opponents to pore through the text and find that controversial provision (it promotes euthanasia!!) buried deep inside that members who voted yes would have to defend retroactively. And while there will still be a huge messaging and lobbying battle over the August recess, this spares Democrats from a potentially worse assault.
Despite the Senate's decision, House Democrats could still vote on a bill before the break, though many hope not. As lawmakers are quick to remember, in 1993 they were persuaded by the Clinton administration to vote for a controversial "BTU tax," then were attacked for the vote in the 1994 elections after the Senate never took up the bill. Some Democrats worry history is repeating itself on the climate change bill, which narrowly passed the House in June but won't be taken up by the Senate until at least the fall. Now, House Democrats "fear a vote on the health surtax could have a similar effect," the Hill writes. Democrats know Republicans will use that precedent to strike fear in the hearts of the majority. In an interview with Lois Romano, Nancy Pelosi put it this way: "The Chinese have an expression: 'Shoot the chickens to scare the monkeys.'" That sums the issue up nicely, doesn't it?
While the health-care issue is now guaranteed to live on for months, it's not clear how long Obama will have to continue coping with another controversy -- his remarks on the arrest of Henry Louis Gates. Even as Republicans began making hay of the incident, Obama tried to walk back his comments a bit, indicating his "extraordinary respect for the difficulties of the job that police officers do" and praising the specific officer in question as "outstanding." (So who exactly acted "stupidly," then? It's not clear.)
In the Garden State, "the FBI and IRS agents arrested five rabbis, two New Jersey state legislators, three mayors," and assorted other unsavory characters Thursday. They did not walk into a bar, and that is not, in fact, the setup to a joke. Politically, the sting operation is bad news for the reelection effort of Jon Corzine, who was already struggling against the change-oriented campaign of Republican (and former U.S. attorney) Chris Christie. Back in December, in the throes of the Blagojevich scandal, readers of this Web site voted Illinois the most corrupt state by a wide margin over Louisiana and New Jersey. Care to reconsider, readers?
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