So Congress managed to legislate last night, passing at the last minute a sprawling bill funding the government through the fiscal year, averting a government shutdown and putting off a fight over immigration until 2015.
The bill was a loss of sorts for the bases on both sides. Conservatives didn’t get the scorched earth battle against Obama’s executive action they wanted. Liberals failed to block the addition of the measure blowing up yet another limit on big money in politics or the measure that eased regulations on derivatives trading, knocking out a key component of financial reform’s effort to control reckless practices by financial institutions.
It passed in spite of the fact that dozens of Republicans defected, requiring 57 Democrats to vote Yes to make passage possible. It will likely pass the Senate. So what does all this tell us about what’s to come?
On balance the outcome sends mixed signals about the ability of the Elizabeth Warren contingent to exert influence over the Democratic Party in service of the goal of protecting liberal priorities. On the one hand, this was obviously a big loss for Warren and Nancy Pelosi, since they failed at their main objective. As Matt O’Brien notes, this could have long term ramifications for the liberal wing’s ability to prevail over the party’s more Wall Street-friendly wing, which could ultimately result in a whittling away of Wall Street reform, among other things.
On the other hand, Pelosi did maintain surprising unity among Democrats up until the very end, signaling to House GOP leaders that if Democrats don’t bail them out, conservative defections will make governing pretty much impossible. And Pelosi may have quietly signaled to Democrats that, once this statement had been made, they could feel free to support the spending package, giving President Obama what he wanted. According to a source in the room during last night’s meeting among House Democrats, Pelosi told them:
“I’m giving you the leverage to do whatever you have to do. We have enough votes to show them never to do this again.”
So I’d say it remains unclear what sort of influence liberals will be able to wield if, say, the prospects for a big bipartisan deal on tax reform threaten to become a bad deal for progressives.
Beyond that, Kevin Drum makes the case that in the end, this is probably the best outcome:
By the normal standards of this kind of stuff, the obnoxious riders in the current spending bill are pretty mild. Really….Government shutdowns are immensely costly in their own right, after all. This kind of crass calculus sucks, but that’s human nature for you. All things considered, I’d say we all got off fairly easy this time around.
I would only add that this outcome — provided the measure passes the Senate — may reduce the possible damage House Republicans can do to liberal priorities in the near future. For much of next year, Republicans will be far more limited in the ways they can use government funding fights to target Obamacare or environmental regulations — which, you may recall, they had previously threatened to do — or to roll back Obama’s executive action on deportations. On the latter, this leaves Congressional Republicans with the remaining options of either risking a shutdown to the Department of Homeland Security to combat his action, which seems like a terrible idea in both political and substantive terms, or perhaps even undertaking some legislating of their own on immigration, which could actually be a good thing in some ways.
This outcome also means that for the near future, fiscal brinksmanship won’t threaten a recovery which is clearly gaining steam, something economists had been warning against.
* GOP TO FIGHT ON IMMIGRATION NEXT YEAR: Roll Call reports that House GOP leaders have pledged to immigration hardliners that they will hold a vote next year to roll back Obama’s authority to act to shield millions from deportation. Presumably that will get blocked by the Dem Senate minority, or if not, vetoed by the President.
Then Republicans will have to decide whether they want to risk shutting down the Department of Homeland Security, all to keep up the fight for maximum deportations. And even that may not work, which will leave one other crazy option: Legislating!
* A BIG LOSS FOR STEVE KING AND MICHELE BACHMANN: Politico reports that conservatives are raging at House GOP leaders for failing to stage a shutdown fight to block Obama’s deportation relief. Noteworthy:
Republican Reps. Steve King of Iowa and Michele Bachmann of Minnesota said they devised a plan and presented it to Boehner: a 60-day CR for all government agencies with language that would undo Obama’s immigration actions. They didn’t get their way. “We almost brought the rule down,” Bachmann said Thursday. “We almost won. But then you heard the bones breaking, with the arms that were twisted. But we almost won.”
So this time, at least, on immigration the GOP did not function as the Party of Steve King. But there’s always next year!
* CLIMATE SKEPTICS REPRESENT AGRICULTURAL DISTRICTS: Slate’s Joshua Saffon reports on an interesting study that finds:
The districts with the most agriculture and natural resources are predominantly represented by Republicans who…generally deny the science of global warming. Those districts also likely face the most severe climate changes…The failure to act on climate issues could devastate the nation’s breadbasket. Climate change could harm corn, soy, wheat, and cattle production, affecting U.S. and global food supplies. In other words, the effects of political polarization and Republican aversion to climate action could harm everyone.
Well, hopefully a confluence of circumstances will force the 2016 presidential candidates to at least talk about climate change a lot more than in the past.
* SURPRISING POLLING ON CLIMATE CHANGE: A new Associated Press poll delivers some heartening findings:
Six in 10 Americans, including half of all Republicans, said they support regulation of carbon dioxide pollution, although they weren’t asked how. Nearly half of Republicans said the U.S. should lead the global fight to curb climate change, even if it means taking action when other countries do not. And majorities across party lines said environmental protections “improve economic growth and provide new jobs” in the long run.
That’s good news. Of course, the poll also finds that carbon emissions rank low on on the list of environmental concerns. But hopefully enough talk about the problem from our political leaders can eventually change that.
* A RETURN TO FUTURE TORTURE? Dan Froomkin catches an important quote from CIA director John Brennan at his press conference late yesterday:
“We are not contemplating at all getting back into the interrogation program,” Brennan said. As for the future, he said, “I defer to future policymakers.”
That’s reassuring! To reiterate, members of Congress could pass something right now that would make this far less likely, if they wanted to, which they don’t.
* HOW SCOTUS COULD DESTROY OBAMACARE: With the Supreme Court poised to decide whether to kill Obamacare subsidies to millions of people on the federal exchanges in three dozen states, Dylan Scott has a useful explainer as to why it will be so hard to rescue the law in all those states in the event of a bad SCOTUS ruling. He details why it may be folly to expect a legislative fix.
No wonder GOP lawmakers are openly anticipating that SCOTUS will do the job on the law that they failed to accomplish legislatively and politically!
* AND MITT-MENTUM IS BACK!!! In private conversations, Mitt Romney is sounding a bit more open to running again for president than he has in the past, because….
In his private musings, Romney has sounded less than upbeat about most of the potential candidates in the 2016 Republican field…He has said, among other things, that Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, would run into problems because of his business dealings, his work with the investment banks Lehman Brothers and Barclays, and his private equity investments.
Of course, Romney could again run into problems with his business dealings, too!