The Democrats’ long lame duck agenda is shrinking fast, sending the 111th Congress out much like it came in: brutally partisan and ideologically deadlocked.
The lame duck agenda is sprawling. Democrats had high hopes before adjournment in October, striving to push through a repeal of the Bush tax cuts and pass the DREAM Act, legislation that would give certain illegal aliens an avenue to citizenship.
Now that Republicans have a seat at the table, however, Democrats need to switch gears. The Obama administration now has the opportunity to develop a better relationship with Congressional Republicans, Democrats, and the other prime movers of the Washington establishment – relationships President Obama has been criticized for neglecting in an effort to build on the anti-Washington posturing that got him elected.
To develop this relationship, the Obama administration ought to urge the Congress to take the advice of Peter Orzag, Obama’s former White House budget director.
Orzag left the cabinet so he could focus on policy solutions to long term deficit problems instead of on Washington speculation.
He was the first of many financial advisors to leave Obama’s cabinet and recently called for a two year extension for all the Bush tax cuts.
According to Orzag, this extension is the best way to politically solve what he calls “a nasty dual deficit problem” including “a painful jobs deficit in the near term and an unsustainable budget deficit over the medium and long term”.
Most recent indications point to surrender from the White House’s highest advisers in support of this total but temporary continuation of Bush-era tax cuts.
In light of the midterm elections, however, where Democrats lost 60 seats in the House and 6 in the Senate, political distractions, like the WikiLeaks scandal, concerns over TSA security pat-downs, worries over North Korea and the Rangel ethics trial, the hefty lame duck agenda is dwindling to a discussion of the DREAM act and a likely “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal.
The last of two elections were driven by an electorate yearning for an overhaul of the way Washington works. But presently the conversation remains the same: uncivil and viewed by the electorate as purely elite-driven.
A better relationship between the Obama administration and Republicans would help mitigate the situation.
Part of changing Washington ought to include legislators and policy wonks resisting such emotional appeals like those included by advocates of the DREAM Act, who have painted Republicans as unsympathetic and heartless.
This kind of rhetoric produces more injustice towards law-abiding citizens who don’t act recklessly and choose self-control over self-expression. It’s time to just get something done.