[Posted by Karl]
As Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her minions work on buying enough votes from farm state Democtrats to squeak an unread version of the cap-and-trade boondoggle through the House, it might be easy to feel discouraged about the state of American politics. However, the most significant part of the story is the degree to which the Democratic leadership is having to buy votes to get their 1,300 page surprise package through the House, where their party not only holds a comfortable majority, but also controls the terms of debate. It will almost certainly be a different story in the Senate, where cap-and-trade is unlikely to surface until September at the earliest.
Moreover, there is the bigger picture:
There is a growing sense among Democrats that they will not be able to accomplish the entire agenda leaders set for 2009, pushing major policy debates into the midterm election year.
Concerns over the cost of overhauling the nation’s healthcare system have served as a wake-up call to lawmakers.
They had planned for a busy summer of healthcare and climate change debate, a dozen spending bills, a defense authorization and hearings on President Obama’s first Supreme Court nominee.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) even promised to add a sweeping overhaul of immigration to that list.
But the revelation that revamping the nation’s healthcare model could greatly exceed $1 trillion over the next 10 years, along with an intra-party debate in the House on climate change legislation, has lawmakers feeling the weight of the packed agenda and sensing the need to narrow the list.
None of this should be surprising. History tells us that gridlock is the norm, and that significant legislation is approved with the same frequency, regardless of whether government is divided or united. Inexperienced Democratic presidents elected every 16 years or so since WWII promise Hopeandchange, and always run smack into the reality of our messy little Constitutional republic.
Barack Obama (and TIME magazine) may have thought the last election opened the door to the New New Deal, but history would again suggest the opposite. Democrats picked up 97 House seats in 1932; it was the only House between 1899 and the present day in which a majority of members were freshmen. The GOP House win in 1994 seems puny by comparison.
Moreover, we may well be looking at the Democrats’ high-water mark for the near term. Polls consistently find that Pres. Obama is more popular than his policies, and Obama’s personal popularity will likely decline as unemployment continues to rise through 2010.
None of which means the Right should not get upset over the prospects for cap-and-trade, or any of the other items on Obama’s “too much, too soon” agenda. To the contrary, vigorous opposition is a necessary part of the natural order of things. It does mean that if cap-and-trade passes in the House today, the Right can continue the fight tomorrow with a fair amount of confidence that the Left will find every next step at least as difficult as the ones they are taking today to squeak through the House they supposedly dominate.
Update: As of noon EDT, the Democrats still did not have the votes, and are threatening to keep Congress open through the weekend until they have the votes.
Update x2: Waxman-Markey passes, 219-212 — a margin that sends cap-and-trade to the Senate with zero momentum. Indeed, one wonders if the last few Reps were reminded of how unlikely this bill was to return for final passage in a form resembling the bill that passed today.