If Republicans rolled their eyes and said a few “I told you so’s” after the president’s overtly leftist and partisan campaign. . . . er. . . inaugural speech, can you imagine the reaction of red-state Democratic senators who must run for reelection in 2014?
When Obama champions collectivism, they squirm. When he puts gay rights and climate change but not lowering the unemployment rate on his to-do list, they shudder. When he gives no indication of real concern on the debt and decries the idea that we should make major revisions to entitlement programs, they hide under the bed. And all that doesn’t include his proposals for more tax hikes and gun bans.
This gap between the president’s unvarnished leftism and the moderate pose of red-state Dems (already in trouble back home for voting with the president on huge domestic spending, Obamacare, etc.) is why Senat Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has had to shield his members from votes on a budget. The extravagant tax proposals the president has made ($1.4 trillion, or is it $1.6 trillion?) could never pass muster in the Senate, and no Democrat wants either to annoy the president nor to incur the wrath of his constituents. (So, for example, don’t expect the full Senate to vote on an assault-weapons ban.)
The president obviously cares not a bit about the red-state senators’ political interests. Otherwise he would have made a doable proposal on guns without an assault-weapons ban, or he would have accepted a grand bargain, or he would not have made gay rights such a central part of his inaugural speech. It’s almost like he doesn’t care if these senators win or lose in 2014.
Likewise, by foisting defense sequestration on the Congress, keeping it looming over their heads and nominating an avowed defense slasher to head the Pentagon, he is telling Democratic senators such as Virginia’s Mark Warner to fend for themselves.
The list of Democrats up for reelection in 2014 includes not only Warner but also Mary Landrieu (La.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Mark Begich (Alaska), Tim Johnson (S.D.), Max Baucus (Mont.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) and Mark Udall (Colo.) — a number of whom will have nothing to gain by taking tough votes on Obama’s left-wing ideas. It is not like they’ll necessarily need or want the president to campaign for them. To the contrary, the name of the game for GOP challengers in 2014 will be to tie faux moderates to Obama.
This is among the many reasons House and Senate Republicans should welcome and encourage the Senate to take votes on the president’s agenda. The president’s collectivist rhetoric is bad enough for senators who have to solicit votes from states that went to Mitt Romney in 2012 or where the electorate in off-year elections is very different than one with Obama on the ballot (e.g. New Hampshire, Virginia). But when it comes to another tax hike on the “rich” or a raft of new spending, what Democrat from a state in play is going to step up?
Obama assumes that a contentless campaign resulting in the maintenance of the status quo (still a Dem majority in the Senate but with many nonliberals; still a GOP House) was an endorsement of his grandiose liberal vision. Not only do voters repeatedly say they want the government to do fewer, not more, things and express concern on the debt, but many members of his party couldn’t dare run on the agenda he wants.
Money bills must start in the House, and the Republicans will do their job as they have the last two years in passing a budget. On everything else, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) should direct questions to the Democratic senators, whom one may find hiding in their offices. Then it will become obvious that it is not House obstructionism getting in the way of Obama’s agenda but rather a bipartisan collection of Republicans and moderate Democrats who aren’t about to jump off the bridge into political oblivion.