The Democrats Are Coming!?

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 11, 2006; 11:26 AM

Speaker Nancy Pelosi .

What was once a scary punchline for Republican fundraisers is now a distinct possibility.

I'm not suggesting that the avalanche of polls showing all indicators favoring the Democrats--remember the theory that declining gas prices would help the GOP?--means the prospect of the House and even the Senate flipping is a slam dunk. Plenty can happen between now and Election Day, including a barrage of negative ads financed by truckloads of Republican cash.

But journalists are just starting to turn their attention to what a Democratic House would mean, for the Bush presidency and the country.

I have to chuckle when I hear GOP operatives moaning that the Dems would spend two years tying up President Bush with investigations and subpoenas. Does anyone remember the endless Whitewater probes? Or the year that Republicans spent investigating President Bill Clinton's sex life, resulting in a party-line vote to impeach him? (Yes, I know, it was about the lying, not the sex, but some of those supporting the impeachment brigades now argue that we shouldn't trouble ourselves about who knew what and when regarding Mark Foley's predatory behavior.)

So while Democratic committee chairmen could make life difficult for the administration, they might also introduce a concept that has been AWOL in the Republican-controlled Congress. It's called oversight.

Can the Democrats pass their agenda? Not with a Republican-run Senate. And even if the Dems captured both houses, they would have to approve legislation by veto-proof margins. So we're much more likely to see the Democrats playing defense--that is, blocking what remains of the Bush agenda--and using control of the calendar and the House floor to spotlight their issues.

What would they do about Iraq? That, at the moment, is anyone's guess.

A couple of pieces about a Democratic takeover are starting to bubble up, such as this one by Michael Barone :

"Pelosi's task will be complicated by bad blood among the leadership (as Gingrich's was); she is on bad terms with the current minority whip, Steny Hoyer, and she seems to have encouraged her ally John Murtha to declare he'd challenge Hoyer for the majority leadership. Also, there are more moderates in the Democratic Caucus (and likely to be more if they win the 15 seats they need for control) than in Republican ranks today.

"Consider the fact that 34 House Democrats, most from districts carried by Bush in 2004, voted for the terrorist interrogation bill supported by George W. Bush and John McCain. That means a narrowly Democratic House is unlikely to act on presumptive Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel's suggestion that it defund the military campaign in Iraq, as a 2-to-1 Democratic House voted to refuse funds for bailing out South Vietnam in 1975 . . .

"On domestic policy, a Democratic House will be able to obstruct but not to impose its own will. Rangel will surely see to it that no extensions of Bush tax cuts come out of Ways and Means, which means tax increases in outyears. Budget levels will be subject to fierce negotiations, as they were in the Clinton-Gingrich years. John Dingell as chairman of Energy and Commerce will deploy his considerable skills on regulatory issues, but these do not always split on party lines. The smart and canny Henry Waxman, as chairman of Government Reform, will undoubtedly launch a series of newsworthy investigations moments after being sworn in on Jan. 3.


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