Monday, December 22, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Congressional Interregnum

Only a few more days remain of the ancien regime of
congressional stalemate which has been stamped on the
past four years of the Obama administration in
Washington, DC. This stalemate, however, has not occurred
in most of the individual states where Republican governors
and legislatures (and some Democratic governors, too)
have pursued innovative and economically prudent policies.

The president’s sudden left turn in U.S. policy to Cuba, not
unlike his unilateral initiative on immigration policy, were
not exactly surprises, nor without the motive of distracting
public attention from the important changeover in the
U.S. Congress where the opposition party now has clear

There will be many changes after the first week of January
in the nation’s capital and capitol. The legislative agenda,
and all of its constitutional powers and prerogatives, will now
be in the hands of those who disagree with Obamacare,
expansion of bureaucracy, higher taxes and more regulatory
authority in the federal government. The president retains the
“bully pulpit,” but Congress now has unambiguous control
of the purse strings and the confirmation process.

The president had more the upper hand the past four years
with the Democratic control of the U.S. senate under the
autocratic hand of Harry Reid. Speaker John Boehner was
constantly at a strategic disadvantage as his party and his
colleagues were almost entirely shut out of federal policy
making. It will be fascinating to observe what both Mr.
Boehner and the new Senate Majority Leader Mitch
McConnell have learned from their recent experiences in
dealing with Mr Obama.

The liberal Old Media makes much of the disagreements
about some policies within the Republican Party, especially
on immigration, Cuba, and healthcare, and that explains the
short-term strategy of Mr. Obama’s actions, hoping that
internal dissension will self-obstruct GOP opposition to the
larger liberal ambitions of creating a U.S. version of the
European welfare state.

Nice try, Barack, but I think John and Mitch have got your
number --- having obtained it through bitter experience over
the past six years.

Nevertheless, the Republican leadership will need to exhibit
very skillful leadership of its increasingly conservative
membership in the Congress. It’s not only a free country, but
conservatives seem to be more independent-minded than
their liberal colleagues, at least in the past several years. On the
other hand, there are several very bright and thoughtful members
of the liberal party in Washington, DC, who now should consider
themselves free of the whipping hands of Mr. Reid and Mrs. Pelosi,
and if they exert themselves in the next two years, could do much
to bring their party back to the political center --- and thus possibly
to new victories in 2016 and beyond. Each party has its more
radical mavericks, for every Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren
there is a Ted Cruz and a Rand Paul, but the business of the nation
mostly takes place in the center.

That is where the contest of the next two years, and then in the
election of 2016, will take place. It is in that arena where the next
president will be selected. In the current interregnum, Mr. Obama
seems less interested in what will follow him than in a personal
agenda. That’s understandable, but not necessarily helpful to his
own interests beginning in only a few more days.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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