Friday, January 27


The National Journal's cover story this issue is a big "What If?" What if, that is, the Democrats gain control of either the Senate or House in the 2006 elections. Since it's subscription-only, I'm posting a long excerpt, but if you can get to it, the whole article is worth reading.

Ah well, we can hope, can't we?

Suddenly, oversight would be back in vogue, as Bush administration officials would face what one senior White House aide conceded would be "two years of investigations" by majority Democrats on Capitol Hill.

On December 18, Conyers introduced his resolutions calling for the censure of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for "misleading" the American people about the Iraq war. "The abuse of power continues to go on and on, and continues to gain steam," Conyers said in an interview last week. "All we're trying to do is signal our displeasure to the president and the vice president."

Expanding on the Conyers gambit, Paul Weyrich, a veteran conservative leader and the chairman of the Free Congress Foundation, went even further. "If you have a [Democratic] takeover in the House, Bush will be impeached," Weyrich bluntly predicted in an interview.

In what could become the White House's worst nightmare, Democratic committee chairmen undoubtedly would launch investigations into everything from prewar intelligence, Plamegate, Hurricane Katrina, Halliburton, the "Plan B" emergency contraceptive, and homeland-security failings.
If Democrats take control of even one chamber of Congress, Bush should forget such top domestic priorities as tax cuts and oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, according to observers on and off the Hill. Even in the one area in which the administration has been most successful in recent months -- winning confirmation of judges -- the president would have to change his tune if the Senate flips. He would be forced to consult far more with Democrats.

"The immediate impact would be the end of George W. Bush's domestic presidency," said Larry Sabato, a politics professor at the University of Virginia.
If congressional Democrats return to power in 2007, they would face difficult decisions over how aggressive, partisan, and obstructionist to be without risking their chances in the 2008 election. "There would be debate within our party on whether to put forth a maximum position," Price said. For starters, he suggested that Democrats could send Bush a proposal like, say, the first minimum-wage increase in a decade, and see how he responds. "If he vetoes," Price boldly added, "we could let the voters decide."
Asked what they would do if they were in charge, Democrats cite a laundry list of domestic legislation, including a minimum-wage hike, overhaul of the newly launched Medicare prescription drug program, increased spending on education, pension reform, and action on energy and environmental issues.

Barely pausing for a breath, Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, listed the following likely initiatives at his panel: reform of the Medicare drug benefit to slash subsidies to managed care firms; relaxation of the rules barring price negotiation and the importation of prescription drugs; action to "relieve some pressures on manufacturing firms" through federal takeover of some health and retirement benefits; more tax incentives to encourage the development of low-fuel vehicles; "a rekindling of bipartisanship on international trade" with new approaches to labor standards; and dramatic tax policy changes to benefit the middle class, including a redesign of the alternative minimum tax. "Give Democrats control of Congress, and we will address the AMT meaningfully," Levin vowed. Phew.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said that Congress must address global warming. Failing to act, she asserted, "means disaster for the planet." Feinstein's home-state colleague, hard-charging liberal Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., would suddenly head the Environment and Public Works Committee in a Democratic-controlled Senate and would surely focus on global warming.
Other observers caution that divided government in 2007-08 would likely lead to gridlock. "I can't imagine Bush being terribly cooperative with a Democratic Senate," said Roger Hickey, co-chairman of the liberal Campaign for America's Future. "If one of the houses goes Democratic, you'd see a lot of positioning for the upcoming presidential election. If the Senate were in Democratic hands, you'd see them try to pass things even knowing that they couldn't get through -- just to show what their agenda was."

Nonetheless, said political science professor David Rohde of Duke University, Democrats cannot just say no. "Democrats would need to take public positions, provide solutions to major problems, and pass bills," he said. "They might get vetoed, but [Democrats] have to be seen to act, or else the public will say, 'What's the point of having them in the majority?' "
For many Democrats, probing the Bush administration's Iraq policy is paramount. "My priority would try to be a constructive voice to force the administration to have to articulate some kind of cohesive policy," said Biden, who would take the reins of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, while noting that his concerns go beyond the Iraq war. "What is their policy on Iran? What is their policy on Korea? What are they going to do relative to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, who is getting a free ride?"
Stupak warned that things would change dramatically with Democrats in the driver's seat. "The majority is protecting the administration," he said. "It would be a lot different if the Democrats were in charge." Likewise, DeGette predicted, "It's been shocking that our oversight capacity has dwindled.... The change would be a huge problem for Bush."

Those words should be music to the ears of Democrats -- and should scare the life out of Republicans -- as they prepare for the high-stakes elections this November.

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