Congress Goes Belly Up

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Thursday, December 13, 2007; 11:46 AM

Historians looking back on the Bush presidency may well wonder if Congress actually existed.

Time and time again, President Bush has run circles around what is, at least on paper, a co-equal branch of government. Sometimes he doesn't bother to ask Congress for its approval. Sometimes he demands it -- and gets it.

Amazingly enough, that didn't change when the Democrats won control of the House and Senate. They just make a bit more fuss before rolling over.

Charles Babington writes for the Associated Press: "Congressional Democrats prepared Wednesday for major concessions on Iraq war funding, children's health insurance, tax policies, general spending and energy, because they could not overcome vetoes by President Bush.

"The setbacks are a stinging disappointment for Democrats, who took control of the House and Senate with narrow majorities this year but never found a formula for coaxing compromises from Bush and his GOP supporters. Republicans blame Democratic hubris, but both sides agree on one thing: Voters will have a clear choice in 2008 on how Congress should be run. . . .

"House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters that Democrats have done all they can. 'We were not elected to do what the president tells us to do,' Hoyer said. But acknowledging political realities, he added: 'If he vetoes and we can't override the veto, then we have to go in some other direction.'

"In every case, Bush's veto powers or senators' filibuster powers have forced Democrats to retreat. . . .

"The bitterest pill for House Democrats is their continued inability to force U.S. troop withdrawals in exchange for continued funding of the Iraq war. Final details were undecided Wednesday, but top Democrats said the administration will get a significant portion of its war spending request, with no strings attached."

Jonathan Weisman writes in The Washington Post: "House Democratic leaders yesterday agreed to meet President Bush's bottom-line spending limit on a sprawling, half-trillion-dollar domestic spending bill, dropping their demands for as much as $22 billion in additional spending but vowing to shift funds from the president's priorities to theirs. . . .

"The agreement signaled that congressional Democrats are ready to give in to many of the White House's demands as they try to finish the session before they break for Christmas -- a political victory for the president, who has refused to compromise on the spending measures. . . .

"White House spokesman Tony Fratto emphasized last night, 'The White House is not part of any deal, full stop.'"

Alexander Bolton writes in The Hill: "The Democrats' capitulation Wednesday on the total domestic spending level is the latest instance of Bush prevailing on a major policy showdown."

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